One Nerdy Cupcake











{January 25, 2013}   Run With The Moon Part 2

RunWithTheMoonCoverAfter a lot of thought and consideration, after I post this second half to RWTM, I am going to turn this into a graphic novel. I feel like what I want to convey needs the visual element. The post apocalyptic world needs its illustrations. So I’ll be working on converting this into a script and with some concept art. I know a few artists, see if any are interested in doing something like this. Its going to be quite the challenge. For both myself and whoever the artist will be. So enjoy the second half of RWTM, it’s going to be a whole new project soon enough. You can read Part One here.

Takumi tugged at my sleeve. “Sienna?” He showed me the electronics he was working with. It looked like a hand. He touched wires together, making the fingers move. “Like you?” He pointed at my left arm, hooked up to the machines. I nodded. “More?” I nodded again, I pointed at my ribcage, my spine and my brain. He looked confused at the last one. I turned and pulled at the skin that was put there to cover the deformity. Wires crossed up the back of my neck, with plugs and a mini motherboard. He looked scared for a second, then reached out and touched the wires. I shivered, it was like touching raw nerve endings. He stepped back. “Why?” he asked. I looked at him, and then decided to give him the whole story, whether he understood me or not.

“In 2931, we were a technological society. Androids and Humans lived in harmony. There were people who couldn’t walk given cybernetic parts, people were achieving the singularity. I was married, my husband Keegan and daughter Amaya and I lived happily in a little suburb. I was 40 when Daemon, or as you know him as The Voice, took power. He was a man who achieved singularity. When he did he realized that Humanity was evil for enslaving the Androids. He felt that the Androids held more power, more knowledge as to what the Humans should be, that we should be slaves to them, not the other way around. I should tell you I never felt the Androids were our slaves, but co-workers in an existing society. The Humans knew we could no longer live without the help of the Androids, but we never thought of them as slaves. They were never given emotion, or want. They basically were programed to function to do a job, but that was it. At the end of the day they would sit down, and go into sleep mode. Wake up each day and do the job again. No one thought much of it until Daemon reached the singularity. The funny thing is, Daemon started to create Androids strictly to be his army. That is who we fight, a mindless set of drones that do exactly what Daemon says. It doesn’t make sense.” I paused for a second, and Takumi continued to listen intently. Maybe he was understanding what I was saying? I continued.

“For the next six years, the world was in crisis. Daemon’s Android army rose to power, destroying every human being, every family. My family was safe, Keegan taught Amaya and I how to shoot, to run, to fight. We knew that the Androids would come for us eventually. We heard rumors of rebels, people who had managed to escape. There was theories that doctors had survived, that some humans were being rebuilt into Hybrids. We prayed that one day we wouldn’t have to run, but we knew it would.” I paused for a second, thinking hard about what happened next.

“On the seventh year, things get harder for me to remember. It was the anniversary of the day Daemon reached the singularity. He had built a special wave of Androids for the occasion. For most of the six years, it was only a few hundred of them, but since it takes specific ways to destroy them, that at the time we didn’t know about. Suddenly, there were millions of them, spreading across the globe. That is when my family was hit. It didn’t even take two minutes. We saw them coming, and tried to duck away, but Keegan was caught first, even though he was shooting and fighting, I watched as an Android reached into his chest and ripped out his heart. They tossed him, like a candy wrapper. I heard all of his bones break on the forceful impact. Amaya panicked and ran towards him before I could grab her and stop her. I saw an Android grab her by her head, pulling so hard it ripped off. I remember shooting. It was a different time, we had real ammunition, not the energy blasters we have now. I ran out, so I threw the gun at one of their heads and ran. I ran until my feet bled.I remember turning around and seeing an entire army of Androids still behind me. I couldn’t run anymore, I collapsed. As the Androids approached, I stood up with a rock in hand, and started bashing each one of them in their metal skulls. One by one. I was soon overtaken, one ripped my arm off. The other punched a hole straight through me. My head was hit hard. I shouldn’t have lived, but suddenly shots were fired. They started falling one by one around me. I was bleeding, I don’t remember what happened. I remember waking up, feeling like it was a horrible nightmare. But I looked down and saw all the wires, I couldn’t move or scream. Sita was sitting next to me as Macaria was in the background tinkering with something. Sita had put her hand on my shoulder, the right one, the one that was left. She told me I was safe, that her husbands camp had stumbled upon me at the time that they saw me stand with the rock. They didn’t get there fast enough to completely save me, but I was a Hybrid now.” I paused, holding back the emotions I started to feel come on.

“I couldn’t really remember what happened, nor could I speak. After Macaria healed me to a point where I would have been able to walk again, I hugged her and Sita. I didn’t speak for almost a  year. I just followed suit, killed the Androids that came around, killed animals for food, protected the camp that saved me. The camp grew, as we found more and more humans still alive. We met up with Sebastian, saved him from a pack of Androids that were trying to get him down from a tree. Varien was already there when I got there. Zandra was born about 5 years before I got there. She’s been fighting since she was 10, if you can believe that. I learned that being Hybrid meant I couldn’t see the sun anymore, that I was now a child of the moon. My skin isn’t real human skin, its a rechargeable cell that is uses moonlight to charge. Kind of like solar energy, but the sun will bake us, so the moon is what we use. I still have human parts, my entire right side and both of my legs are human. Most of my skin is fake though. The motherboard in my head is upgrades, so I can detect the heightened heat signatures of the Androids, so I can gather my surroundings if I am in an unknown area, and more than the normal knowledge of on the front line medical stuff. I’m stronger than I was. I am able to communicate with most people. Except you, it seems.” I smiled at him. He looked at me, his eyes big.  Continuing, “I once decided I was going to take on The Voice on my own, going renegade from the camp. We were only a few miles away from The Voices headquarters, he moves frequently and we had stumbled into his territory on accident. The camp decided to only stay for the daylight, since we were exhausted and it was the rainy season. While everyone else was resting, my mind was ill at ease. I decided to go renegade from the camp, to take on The Voice. The Androids are more active during the day, since they can go without recharge. It’s a technology that we don’t know yet. I remember sneaking out, completely covered. I was stupid, not at least waiting until night, I could have at least blended in if I so felt like it, but I just wanted vengeance and blood for my family. It was surprisingly easy to take out all the lookouts, I was younger and quicker than though too. I was able to get in the gates, which is when I was met with about 50 or so Androids. It was the most I had ever taken on at a time. There was a knife slashing, cutting off limbs before turning around and jamming the knife in the back of the skull, where the motherboard lies. You’ll learn about that soon. I didn’t use a shotgun then, which wasn’t smart. I just had a rifle, which was an old timer with actual ammunition. I ran out before I got through the crowd. A lot of hacking, slashing and physical fighting occurred. I’m not quite sure how I managed to take out 50, I was so blind by my hatred that I just kept going. I was then greeted by another group of Androids, this group so big I couldn’t even tell what was happening.” I felt tears slide down my cheeks. I forgotten how bad this had affected me.

“They captured me instead of killing me. Daemon wanted to see what someone who infiltrated his lair looked like. Seeing him was terrifying. He looked like a human, just with lightning for eyes. Bald, thin. I had never seen anyone that had achieved singularity before, but if he was the end result I would have avoided it. His eyes, they zapped into me, reading my brain. He could tell I wasn’t a normal human. I don’t know if he knew that I hadn’t spoken in months, or that I had suffered. But he knew I was different. He grabbed my by the throat, lifting me off the ground. I couldn’t breathe. He tossed me, as if I was nothing but a loose hair. I don’t remember much after that. He never said anything. But suddenly smoke filled the room and I was being dragged out by someone or something. I still don’t know how I ended up back at the camp, who rescued me. But I know I started talking a week later when my throat healed. I apologized to everyone for everything. I thanked them for saving me twice. I talked and I talked. I talked about my family, about who I had lost, who I had gained. The thanks I gave, I never could give enough. I talked to Mica, who taught me how to shoot an energy shotgun. I talked to Redtail, who taught me to snipe. I learned how to be a better, stronger warrior. Even though my body is wrecked with age and battles now, I am have achieved so much more by being able to communicate with these people. Now I’m going to do that with you.” I pulled him up into my lap, cradling him like a small child. “I’m going to teach you how to speak to me. I’m going to teach you how to fight, to shoot, to take out these Androids. You’re going to learn how to live this life without being afraid, without me in case anything happens. I’m going to protect you, I’m going to teach you, and you’re going to be productive in a world without fear. Without Daemon and the Android army. You and the rest of the Humans will repopulate the Earth, the rest of us Hybrids will protect it. Thats why we’re here. We’re here to protect you.” I hugged him close as tears fell down my face.

“Sierra?” Takumi asked, his eyes big and looking up at me. “Thank you.”

My heart would have burst there if shock didn’t suddenly course through my system. I had overworked everything by telling this story, and I needed rest. Takumi quickly reacted, climbing off my lap and fixing my pillows, gently pushing me into a laying position.

“Soon. You teach me. We work.” He smiled. His English might be broken, but he is at least trying. The least I could do is try for him. Macaria walked in then, making a tsk noise at me.

“You should be resting. Takumi, go get food.” He opened his mouth like he wanted to protest,  but quickly shut it and scurried out the door. Macaria took my hand. “I heard all of that dear. Do you want to talk about it?”

“Not even a little, to be honest.” I laughed, unsure how to proceed. “I’ve never let it all out before. I know he didn’t understand it, and I’ll probably never tell it again, but I feel better knowing that I said something rather than nothing.”

“I’m sure he appreciates it” she smiled, patting my hand. “I’m glad I overheard it. You really don’t know how you were rescued from The Voice?”

“Not that I recall. I was thrown pretty hard, if you remember my damages were pretty extreme. His looks are pretty deceiving.”

“You said he never spoke. How did you know it was The Voice?”

“I don’t, actually” I confessed. “Everything that was going on, when he looked in my head, I just knew. I think I gave it away that the Hybrids exist then. I hope I didn’t ruin us for everyone.”

“Don’t worry, it was close to 75 years ago. Technology has improved and changed. We’ve all beaten the odds by surviving this long. I hear he’s starting to play games with the Humans that are left though.” She looked sad. I was confused.

“Games? What do you mean?”

“I’m not sure. Remember how not long back there was that other camp we ran into, but decided not to meld because of the numbers being too great? They had people that were captured, not killed. I think The Voice is bored with ruling the world. I think thats why he wanted you alive. He called you a War Criminal Si.” She looked really worried. I tried to calm her down.

“I know. I don’t think I’m being tracked, and I can fight well when I’m healed. We’ll be fine. Lets focus on cleaning out that warehouse. My intuition is saying some bad blizzards are coming, and we don’t want a repeat of last year.”

She smiled. “You’re right. I’ll send Juan and Sita in here, since I think they should head up that team.” She exited the tent, leaving me alone for the first time in a long while. All I could think about is what is going to happen next, what am I going to do. Can I really care for Takumi? Why is our energy bond so great? I should have asked Macaria about that. The only noises around me were the noises of the machines I was hooked up to. It was deafening. I needed something, someone. I felt like I was missing something. I looked over and saw a pen and paper lying there. So I started writing. Nothing of interest, it all seemed nonsensical. Equations, words, letters on their own. Just a stream of consciousness wrapped up in a piece of paper. Energy equations, to create a better shotgun. New metals, ideas just flew through my fingertips. By the time Juan and Sita walked in, the notebook was half full.

I barely even noticed them coming in. I just kept writing, until Juan cleared his throat.

“What are you working on?” He asked, calmly.

“Nothing, I just needed to let loose.” I closed the notebook and put the pen on the table.

“Macaria said you had quite the breakthrough with Takumi. Feeling better?”

I sighed. Word spreads quicker than wildfire here. “I don’t think he understands what I said, nor do I understand why we’re so bonded. I’ve seen people be defrosted before without this bonding effect, why is he so different?”

Sita and Juan exchanged glances, then Sita replied. “We think its because you collapsed during his defrostation. You used your pure energy, what you were streaming straight through you, into him by powering the defrosting machine that way. That’s our only theory though.”

“You’re going to make a great mother though…” Juans voice trailed off, I must have been glaring at him. “..not that you weren’t already once! Look, let uh. Lets talk about that warehouse okay?”

I nodded. Juan and Sita always felt like a set of parents to me. “Yes, lets. The winter is going to get worse, both Macaria and I are feeling it. So did you guys scan it while I’ve been out? What do we have to work with?”

Juan looked at me. “Other than the barrel of pickles, nothing really. It will provide shelter and we can cover the windows, but we’ll have to designate areas for fires. There is a lot of mess in there that we will need to clean up. Varien said he might be able to get power going in there, so we can have some light. The main thing though is that it will probably be the best course of shelter we can work with.”

“Its not made of anything flammable right?” We had made that stupid mistake in the past. He laughed.

“No, we triple checked that count. That was a bad year. There isn’t any food in there though, and I worry we’re going to run out.” Sita put her hand on his arm. I shook my head.

“Don’t even worry about that. Varien and I will hunt, when I am well. Send him and Redtail out together for now. Zandra and I will plan as much as we can, I will probably have to go out and do a link up to an Android to find The Voice’s current location.”

Sita looked at me, her eyes big. “Isn’t that dangerous?”

I smiled at her. “Of course, but what else am I going to do? Wander the world until I hopefully stumble on him?

My batteries started to buzz, which Macaria came in from outside. I laughed “Are you eavesdropping?”

Giving me her overly fake innocent look, “No Sienna, of course not!” She moved some wires around, causing my spine to tingle. “Sorry, sorry. I’ll be done in a minute, don’t worry. You can talk about the warehouse some more. And you’re overly dangerous plan that I am thinking about joining you on so you have a mechanic.”

I shook my head at her. “Don’t even think about it, not even a little  bit. You are much too needed here to join us. Plus Cathan will kill me if I take you with.”

She sighed. “I know, but I like to pretend that maybe one day I’ll go on some crazy adventure with you guys. Even if I am an old lady already” I pulled my arm away from her.

“You’re not old!” she zapped me “Fine, you’re a little old. But you still have enough time for crazy adventures.”

Sita laughed “Oh the perils of being a mother. I like to think that Jannali and Rami will go out on crazy missions, but at the same time I’m glad they are medical.” She patted her belly. “Whoever little three is, will be a great warrior. Maybe I’ll leave them to you, Si” I stuck my tongue out at her.

“No more kids for me. Leave it for Takumi. He can have kids!” They laughed at me. Macaria finished whatever she was doing so that my batteries stopped buzzing and stepped outside. I looked back over at Juan and Sita.

“Okay guys, tell me I’m crazy and stupid and whatever, please get all parenting lectures done now so I can tell you ‘you’re not my real dad!’ and stomp off to my room and slam the door” I said with a smile.

They glanced at each other, than Juan started to speak. “Its not that we don’t agree with you. But we’re worried about what this will do to Takumi. He is young, untrained for war, and you’re taking him with to teach him English. Other than martial arts we don’t know his level of competence and he really is only just defrosted after over 900 years of being frozen. I understand that you trust him fully, but we still worry that you caring for him is going to end in your demise. Or his. You can leave him here, the camp as a whole can raise him, teach him English and to fight properly. He can be taught history and not be thrown into the depth of war, essentially only a few weeks after birth.” He paused for a second, taking a breath. Sita took over talking then.

“We’re also worried with such a small team. The Androids have been smarter since you infiltrated once before. There are more and more, their numbers can just keep growing. We can only repopulate at such a rate, but they can build each other and just be ready to go. The amount of Human and Hybrid camps dwindle, and while it would be great to have more of us, we know our survival is pretty thin now. We want you to look at the reality of the situation, to really think about what you are doing. Do you really think you can take down The Voice and all of the Androids with just the six of you? One who is completely untrained, can’t speak, doesn’t even know the history of the war? Can you really be ready for this?”

I shook my head. “We can never be ready for this. If we die in battle then that is the way to go. But I would rather die fighting than sit around waiting for it. We need to fight back, or at least try to. Macaria has told me that The Voice has started to play games with the surviving Humans. I don’t know what that means. Remember there used to be a time when dictators would watch in a colosseum as Humans fought to the death, or fought animals to the death? What if he is doing something like that? He’s bored with ruling the world. He wants something more. Who knows what he could do next, but I don’t want to find out. If you’re bringing another child into this world, they need to be free of the Android life. Even free of Hybrids, once the Androids are gone you won’t need us to protect you any longer.”

Juan started “Sienna, Hyrbids are more than…” but I cut him off.

“I know, we’re semi human, but our best roles are as soldiers. I don’t think there will be much purpose to us once he is gone. We cannot reproduce, so we’ll die off eventually. Our lives just are extended longer than yours. Over the years I’ve come to term with it, it was hard to even want to live without my family. Now I have you guys, and all I want to do is protect you. Protect the little one that isn’t born yet, and the millions of little ones that still haven’t been. It might be programmed into us, who knows.  But this is what we do. Let us protect you.”

Juan hugged me then, hard. “I know you are thinking in a good light, Sienna. I know what you want to do. Doing this thing, taking on the Android army with only 5 others, its suicide. You’re going to get yourself killed.”

I talked into his shoulder. “Its going to be scary, and if we die it is the way to go. We die with a good vision in mind…a world without Android control. We can only hope that our future generations do not get ideas to create another of The Voice. Hopefully our tales will live on, but we don’t know. We just don’t know.”

Sita put her hand on my shoulder. “Are you so sure life without The Voice is what we need?”

I pulled away with Juan, staring at her in disbelief. “Yes, I do. We’re hiding, we’re starving, we’re freezing, we’re dying. Because of The Voice. Because of Daemon and all that he did. Because he wanted all of this power.”

“But what if this was meant to happen Si? What if the Humans are supposed to die off, and Androids are to evolve?” She was staring at her hands. I know her beliefs are far different than my own, but I couldn’t imagine this.

“Are you giving up?” I asked her quietly.
“No, of course not. We’ll all go down fighting. But maybe the Androids are the ones who are meant to evolve now.” She got up and quietly left the tent. Juan sighed.

“She gets so weird when she is pregnant.”

“How far along is she?” She wasn’t showing, so it couldn’t be too far.

“Only a couple of months, we aren’t for sure yet. We need a Hybrid to charge the machine to read it. Varien said after he was done hunting he would be more than happy to charge the machine.” He must have noticed the look on my face. “You aren’t well enough to do it, and now you have a lot more riding on it. Stop giving me that look.”

I sighed, knowing nothing was going to change his mind. “Lets talk more about the warehouse. What kind of manpower? How long will it take?”

“If we all pitch in and do it we should be done in about a week. It is really just a lot of Human waste and dirt, we can just hope that the snow doesn’t hit too hard. That light snow when you went down is all we’ve had so far, but its been getting bitterly cold. Does Macaria have your winter wear in here?”

“I don’t think so. If you could bring it that would be great.”

“Of course.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes, both thinking about the different paths we’re about to take. When it got to be too much, I spoke up.

“Its going to be weird doing this without you, you know.”

He smiled. “It’s going to be weird not doing this with you. But I’m old, I have a kid on the way, and someone has to stay behind to protect the camp. You’ll be fine. You should rest though. I’ll come and talk to you when Macaria says you’re closer to being better. She says you still have a least a week.”

“Nice of her to tell me.” I said with a smirk.

“You know how she is.” He turned to walk out, waving. “Sleep well, moonshine.”

I laid down, realizing how tired all of the visits were making me. I didn’t feel like I was that injured after the fight, but as battered as I was, I must have been pulled at more than I realized before The Voice ended it. As I started to doze off, Varien walked in. He saw that I was just about to sleep though, so instead of talking, he kissed my head and patted my shoulder, leaving me be. Thankful, I drifted off into a deep sleep.

Things started off normal, we moved quickly and quietly under the brush. There were a lot  of small animals about, some that could have been worth eating. But starting a fire could really be a signal out to the Androids, and we didn’t want to draw any attention to ourselves. The Voice couldn’t have been far. Takumi fell in front of me, exhausted from the journey. I picked him up, tossing him on my back like a rag doll. We pushed forward, the moon shining brightly down on us. We made a sharp turn out of the trees into a clearing. There before us stood a factory, millions of lights lit up, Androids everywhere. Knowing that Takumi was exhausted, I pointed up in the trees to make camp. We would be useless if we’re collapsing in exhaustion before we even walked into The Kingdom of The Voice. Before I knew it, we were up in the trees, Takumi snoring on a thick branch. I tilted his head so his airways were more clear, making the snoring stop. I couldn’t risk his sleep giving us away. Looking around, everyone else was fast asleep as well. I started to make myself comfortable sitting up on a branch as a lookout when I heard an unfamiliar voice.

“Sienna!”

I looked around, seeing nothing. I readied my shotgun, spinning it quickly.

“No Sienna! Don’t shoot, its me!”

I whispered briskly, “Who is this?”

“It’s me! Don’t shoot! I’m here to help, remember?”

I stared into the dark, not seeing anyone or anything. “I don’t know who this is, how can I trust you?”

The voice sounded sad. “You don’t recognize me?” I couldn’t place the voice to any face I knew. It was husky but feminine. There was a touch of an accent, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. “Please Sienna. I want to help. Please let me help Sienna. Please let me help.”

I shook my head. “I’m coming down. Show yourself to me so that I may recognize you.” I had my shotgun ready for fire as I jumped down. I whipped my knife out as I landed, ready to attack at anything that came at me. Golden eyes, low to the ground, started walking towards me. A black panther appeared.

“Sienna.” The panther said. “How can you not recognize me? Why don’t you remember me?”
Something in my brain softened. “Reveal your true self.” Almost smiling, the air began to shimmer. Glistening, the panther shifted into a Human form. Smiling from ear to ear, Keegan stood before me.

“Remember me now?” His voice was still wrong. I took a step back.

“No. You’re dead. Your voice is wrong. You’re not him.” His smile faded.

“Of course I am.” He took a step forward, I took a step back. “Why are you afraid of me?”

“I watched you die. I watched as you died, and Amaya died, I watched what they did to you.”

“Amaya? She’s not dead. She’s here too. She wants her Mommy. Its been so long Sienna. They fixed us Sienna. We’re not dead. We’re here, and we miss you.” He edged closer, the air around him began to shift again. Keegan shrunk, his hair growing out into dark pigtails, emerging as Amaya, but with gold eyes. I felt frozen to the spot as my little girl stared at me.

“Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Why are you holding that gun Mommy? Mommy hug me, Mommy I miss you..” she was crying and talking so fast, her voice still didn’t sound right, nothing about this felt right, but it was my little girl. My knife and gun slipped out of my hands as I ran towards her, embracing her tightly. I wept, holding my daughter, hugging her so close I wanted to absorb her, all of her energy into me. A shot rang out, a searing pain through my chest as the world shifted again and Daemon stood above me, laughing. Just laughing maniacally as he walked over and took my shotgun, spinning it even though it was already charged.

“Nifty tool you got here miss. Better than the first gun you took to see me. You’re very revealing in your files, my War Criminal. Your family meant so much to you, even after all of this time, this is so silly. Such a human thing to fall for. So lets take care of your camp, shall we?” He fired five shots into the trees, and five bodies fell to the ground. He turned and faced me, as I bled out into the snow covered ground, still feeling the moon charging me even though I felt my signals getting weaker. “Don’t try to fight this one miss, you’re done.”

I started to talk “They’ll find you…they’ll take you down.”

He laughed. “Oh, that’s quite enough of that now.” He pointed the shotgun at my head.

“Boom.”

I am surrounded by cherry blossoms, falling around me. The sun is out, shining brightly around me without burning me. I reach out and catch one, inhaling deeply. My skin is a normal Human color, actually a deep tan. There are no heat sensors in my head going off. I don’t feel like I have to be in battle mode. I see Takumi, catching flowers with two people that could only be his parents. I see Zandra, her red hair swirling around her head as she floated in the sky. Varien was also of normal colors, no longer the pale skin with dark hair. Sebastian sits in a tree, eating an apple. I turn around, seeing Keegan and Amaya. I hug them tightly, feeling Human again. I feel no pain or fear. I see Cathan and Macaria pulling Zandra from the sky, while Juan and Sita hold their three children close. Other members of the camp come wandering in, holding hands with others as we sit in peace while the cherry blossoms swirl around us.

Suddenly the world shifts. The cherry blossoms fall to the ground, decaying quickly. The sky turns green, swirling into a vortex as evil laughter comes from the hole. Androids fall into the world, standing at attention. The laughing ceases, with only the order “Kill Them All” being said. I pull Keegan and Amaya into a run as fire lights at our feet. We run, shots fired all around our head and fire surrounding us. Turning around I see Takumi and his family being taken out, Sita dropping the baby as a shot goes through her head. Sebastian falls from the tree. Varien dives in front of Jannali to save her, but as he takes a few of the shots a few hit her as well. I watch as Keegan and Amaya are taken away from me yet again. I am the last woman standing.

Shots are fired, but they all stop in front of me. I am surrounded by a bubble like shield, nothing penetrating it. The Androids come forward, scratching, pawing, punching the shield but nothing happens. The Voice calls out “We’re still going to kill you, Sienna. No one will be left.”

The world melts again. This time I’m surrounded by nothing but black. A man stands in front of me. His hair is white, his skin is dark, his eyes are a brilliant light purple. His arms a tattooed in a blue pattern, which look like circuits. He has a very suave stance to him. I’m back to my normal form, with pale skin and black hair. I felt like I love this man, and I don’t know who he is. I walked up to him and embraced him, while he kissed me deeply. We pulled back, and he whispered to me, “Lets make this world burn.” Fire erupted, surrounding us. Our hair flew up, being kissed by the flames but never burning. Shadows of souls whip through the flames. He holds me close for a few seconds, when he lets go I fall into a tunnel of darkness, feeling like it will never end. I fall and fall, I even stop screaming to wonder if I will ever hit bottom. I can still see him watching me from above. A sudden blast of light puts him out of my mind, and I land hard on dirt.

In front of me Takumi stands, his hand out to help me up. He smiles, and says my name. Pulling me to my feet, he embraces me, wrapping his arms around my waist. I kiss the top of his head. I look around, realizing we’re in the real world. I look down at him.

“Where are we?” I ask him. His eyes widen.

“Home, Sienna. Where else would we be?”

I woke up with a jolt. I touch my head, wondering what could have possibly done that to my dreams. I look down at my arms and realize that Macaria has taken out the IV and all of the wiring. She walked into the tent, eyes filled with worry.

“Oh thank all that is good!” she rushed over, embracing me tightly. “You haven’t woken up in over a day, I was worried I overshocked your system when I unplugged everything.” She looked at me dead in the eyes. “What’s wrong? What’s happening? Are you feeling okay?”

I touched my head again. “I’m fine, I just had a very long messed up set of dreams while I was under. I was really out for a whole day?”

She bowed her head. “It might have been longer. I don’t know when you fell asleep. But right after Varien left the tent I pulled out the IV and the wires. You convulsed, I thought I might have killed you. But you were still breathing and your vitals were okay. Cathan and I have been taking turns watching you to make sure nothing else happened.”

“Did Varien come in after I was asleep? I saw him when I was dozing off.”

“No, I think that was when. You fell asleep pretty quickly dear. All of this is taking its toll on you. I don’t feel ready to let you out on your feet yet.”

Sudden worry shot through me. “Where’s Takumi?”

Macaria smiled. “He’s fine, he’s been working with Cathan in medical practice. He’s quite the healer. I think he wants to be able to help you. When he’s in here he is always tinkering with the metals and wires. He still doesn’t speak much though.” She paused. “Will you stay awake for a few minutes? Juan wanted me to let him know when you woke up, and I want to let Cathan and Takumi know you’re awake as well.” Before I could answer, she scooted out of the tent. I wanted to let her know I was in no rush to sleep again, with the dreams acting the way they were, but I was suddenly feeling very tired again. I struggled to keep my eyes open, wanting to see my extended family. But the pressure on my eyelids won, and I collapsed back onto the table.

Shaking.

“Oh no.”

Pounding.

“No, no, no!”

Zapping.

“Wake up. Wake up. Wake up.”

A jolt. My eyes fly open. Jannali stares down at me, while it looks like Macaria has an automobile battery strapped to my chest. Macaria collapsed into a chair, sighing in relief.

I sat up. “What happened?”
Jannali stared at me “You died.”

I tilted my head. “I what?”

Macaria sighed. “You died. I don’t know what is going on with your system Sienna, but we’re going to have to operate on you. Give you a whole new system overhaul. I think under the amount of damage that you have done to yourself over the past few months that you’ve completely messed up your system. Takumi has been quite helpful as well.”

“Takumi?” He appeared behind Macaria. He pointed at something in the corner. I didn’t have great eyesight yet, but I squinted and saw a skeleton made completely of wires. “Did he build that?”

Macaria smiled. “Yes, and it’s fully functional by solar charge. Not sun, moon, but he’s working on a skin type that might make you functional during the day as well.”

“I will save you, Sienna. You save me, I will do that for you.” His English was broken, but it was obvious he is picking it up.

“You’re a genius, aren’t you?” I was starting to think maybe he would be better off to stay here. Macaria must have noticed.

“He’s still going with you. He won’t stop talking about you. I don’t think he would feel comfortable staying around here if you weren’t here.” I sighed, slightly relieved.

“So how are we doing this?”

“I’ll put you under, and then I’m not going to tell you until after you heal up what we are actually going to do.” She said with a smirk. I gave her a confused look, and she laughed. “I know you. You will panic and freak out and won’t allow me to do it. Don’t worry. Trust the three of us. You’ll be fine. I am going to send in Juan to talk to you before we do this though, since some developments with the warehouse have happened. He wants your opinion before continuing on.”

I nodded. “Okay. Am I going to be able to stay alive long enough?” She laughed at me.

“Yes, the car battery that is strapped to your chest will keep you up and running for a few hours. I’ll go get Juan.  Jannali, come with me please.” She hopped down off the chair she was standing over me on, quietly following her without argument. Takumi came and sat next to me.

“I fix you. You better.” He patted my hand. I kissed the top of his head.

“Such a sweet boy” I murmured. “You’ll be fine in no time.”

Macaria walked back in, followed by Juan. He smiled “I’ve been told I shouldn’t hug you just yet. We’ll have plenty of time for that later, after the surgery. Hello Takumi!” Takumi smiled and waved. Juan took the chair on the opposite side of Takumi, patting my other hand. “How are you feeling?”

I yawned. “I’m tired. I guess everything short circuiting is making me exhausted.” He pet my hair.

“I know, its okay. So do you want an update on the warehouse?”

I nodded slightly. “Yes, of course. What is happening?”

“No more food was found, but we found a few more boxes of batteries. Macaria has those, along with that car battery attached to your chest. Do you remember automobiles? I wish we could still drive them. Curse those things being so easy to pick up by Android technology. All of the walking would be cut down by so much.” I laughed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off topic. Now the bad news is that the waste is much more than we thought, and we’re running further behind than we thought. Everyone is pitching in, including Takumi there. He’s a quick worker that one. He even found a pendant, didn’t you?” Takumi nodded. He held up a necklace with a purple jeweled crystal on the end. On the end of the crystal there was small white pearl droplets.

“Mother.” He said looking sad. I looked at him closely.

“This was your mothers?” He nodded. A pang of jealousy went through me, realizing that I wasn’t his real mother, then hated myself for that. Of course I wasn’t. The boy is 19, he must have remembered his real mother, and her necklace. I patted his head.

“So what do we have to worry about? I know the cold is coming, I can feel it. Plus my blanket layers seem to be growing every time I wake up” I said with a wink to Macaria.

Juan laughed “Well, theres that. We also need to worry about our food supplies. We’re starting to hit a dangerous low spot, and this area doesn’t seem great in the way of plantlife or animal life. I think I’m going to have to send Varien and Zandra on a scavenge. That will take away some of our manpower and down two fighters. We’ll be in a vulnerable spot, especially with you going under the knife. I think Takumi will be a great asset, but he still hasn’t taken on an Android.”

I thought about this, pausing. “How long do you think Zandra and Varien will be gone?”

“A few days, at least. Depends on what they find. We have a pretty big food bill for this camp, to fall a couple of deer would be ideal, along with plants. We can only chew tree bark for so long.”

I twirled my hair. “How is the water supply?”

“We can make it through the winter, although just barely. I would probably send a barrel with them.” Juan looked sheepish, like this was his fault. I patted his shoulder reassuringly.

“Do it. There’s no way that we can starve this camp, and the winter is going to be a harsh one. I don’t want to even think about it. Takumi can fight if we’re attacked. But lets double time on the clean up of the warehouse, just in case. That place would be a great fortress, and I would feel better knowing you all were in there.”

Juan nodded. “I know that you never wanted to lead this camp, that you left that for me, but I really do value your input on it.”

“I know.” I said with a smile. “I have no intention on leading this camp, but if it’ll ease your mind I am more than happy to help. How soon do you plan on sending out those two?”

“As soon as I can. I’m going to take Takumi with me on guard duty, so maybe he can get the rounds. You okay with that?” Takumi nodded. I think he’s learning to understand us more and more each day, which is exciting. Training him might not be as difficult as I thought. “Hey Mac, how soon is it until Sienna goes under the knife?”

“She’s going under as soon as you leave. Takumi, Jannali and myself are doing the procedure. So you can’t take him just yet” she said with a playful smack to his shoulder.



{June 28, 2012}   Alternates: Part 3 & 4

Due to my lack of posting updates (but I’ve been writing it!) I’m giving you a double dose of Alternates today. If you  need to catch up, Part One and Part Two are both available. The same rules still apply, I welcome criticism as long as you are constructive in it. Wheaton’s law folks. Thanks for your patience!

Part 3

Beaten and bloody, I faced a new sort of torture. They had captured our Pack. Their hands on their heads, each of the Mutts were trotted out in front of me. Their tearful eyes begged me to help them, as each of their lives were taken from them while I watched. The younger ones were killed quickly, with a blow to the head. The older they got, the more they were tortured. Knives, burns, being shot in places that wouldn’t fatally kill you at first. Fight as I might, the Alts had me pinned. But nothing could have prepared me for the end.

The last person they brought out was Dylan. He was barely conscious, probably struggling to save the rest of the Pack. I thought back through the Alt and Human history that Opa had taught us. I couldn’t remember what had made the Alts so hostile towards the Humans. I didn’t know what made them hate the Mutts so much. But these moments were frozen in time in my head. These were the moments that turned me against the Alts.

Dylan was placed in a chair in front of me. He was slapped awake, his eyes barely alive. His multicolored eyes that I couldn’t feel anymore. Dylan, my brother, my best friend. Dylan, who didn’t make a sound as a knife was dragged from his scalp to his chin. A single tear didn’t fall from my brothers face as deep cuts were made around his body. I couldn’t say the same for myself, as I screamed, cried and tried to fight my way to him. But there were too many Alts, no matter how many I broke through, they just overpowered me. I couldn’t even tell if he was alive anymore, there was so much blood. It was everywhere. There was blood dripping everywhere. All of us who had suffered, all of the Mutts in my Pack that died, all of the Alts I had managed to kill or harm, all of our blood mixing together on the floor. There was a large whack to the back of my skull, bringing me to the floor. I remember thinking how strange it was that all of our blood was right there, but there was so much hatred still around me.

I woke up in a sterile white room. Across from me, I could see Dylan. He was still in the chair, bleeding everywhere.  Realizing I was no longer bound, I ran towards him with what little strength I had, but halfway across the room I was flung back into the wall. Screaming in frustration, I walked slowly towards the center, this time dragging my hand along the wall until I felt the slight vibration. There was a current, probably electric in between Dylan and myself. This proved they were going to make Dylan into a show for me. He shuffled slightly in his chair, and I sighed in relief, glad to know he was still alive. I could still rescue him somehow. Before I could say anything to him, two Alts came in the room. One sneered at me, with teeth that resembled shark teeth. The other roughly shoved Dylan’s chair forward, closer to the current. Horrified she was going to shove him in, I stupidly ran to stop them, flinging myself back into the wall. Laughing, the two Alts watched as I crawled back to the center, this time much more weary of the divide. Paying closer attention, I could actually see the currents keeping me from helping my brother.

They said something to each other in their own language, the female Alt laughed, drawing a serrated knife from her belt. The male looked at me, his eyes piercing through to my very soul. He bared his teeth in a wicked grin. “You’re going to love this.” He says, “This Mutt dies by your hands. You’ll be so happy to put him out of his misery.” Laughing again, the female took the knife and sliced down Dylans arm. Screaming, I fling myself into the current again, trying to wake him up from this misery. Just praying that he’ll wake up. I know he has feeling, I know he can feel what they are doing.

“Fight back!” I scream at him “Fight them! Dylan, I need you to fight!” he stirs slightly at the sound of my voice. I continue to yell, “Dylan please! We need to fight for our brothers and sisters! Dylan please wake up!” The Alts continue to grin as the female continues to cut into my brother. The male stared me down with those alien eyes. “You’re a fighter. If you’re lucky she’ll save you.” The female hissed at him “Do not mention her. Do not talk to the Mutt. She will be lucky to give death to this one before we kill her ourselves.”

I wondered who they are talking about. Before I have time to react, the currents are gone and the Alts swiftly leave the room. Dylan is sliced all down his arms and legs. There is a slice across his throat, but it doesn’t look deep. I run to him, I try to hold his hand but screams out in pain. It is the first sound he has made since I’ve woken up. “Dylan” I try to touch his face “Dylan, please wake up. Please wake up. We can fight them together. Dylan.” I plead with him. “Please. I’ll do anything. Don’t you dare die on me. Don’t you dare.” His eyes open. His double colored eyes stare up at me, blinking rapidly.

“Kill me.”

I looked in his eyes with horror. Tears sprang to my eyes. This is what he truly wanted. He really wanted me to kill him.

“Don’t make them right. They are just cuts. We can cure you. Please..” my voice trailed off. We both knew that he couldn’t heal from those gashes. I couldn’t even see his skin anymore. There was just blood. So much pooled beneath him. I kissed his forehead.

“Some escaped. Save them” he whispered. I nodded, grasping his head.

“I love you brother” The snap was fast. His body sagged in the chair. I collapsed in his pool of blood, sobbing.

Time passed. I have no idea how much. I just knew I had to get ready. The guards will return. They will see him dead, and I would be next. I did a quick assessment of my injuries. Nothing I couldn’t handle. Not exactly one hundred percent, but close enough. I knew the guards carried at least blades. Hopefully some sort of projectile. I have no idea where I am. An Alt holding area, but where? Am I far from the hideout? I looked down, realizing how horrifying I must look, covered in my brothers blood.

Wearily standing, I pushed on the area where the Alts had come from. Something was a door there right? They didn’t just materialize. Or did they? I didn’t know much about them. I was really beat up when they came in. Pushing on the white walls, I could smell the copper blood on me. It made me want to vomit everywhere, but I knew I had to get out.

I must have pushed the right panel, because a keypad dropped open. The pad didn’t look like any language we were taught, so I just started randomly pushing the buttons, my thought process “Some sort of combination should work, right?”. I wasn’t wrong, but it wasn’t the reaction I was expecting. After mashing a certain set of numbers, the pad started sparking. The lights went out, and the pad stopped working.

“Shit!”

I started banging on where I thought the door would be. The emotional turmoil of the days past caught up with me, and I started screaming. The loss of my mother, my packs, my brother all balled up inside me were let out as I beat against those white walls. Sobbing, I sank to my knees, ready to admit defeat. The smell of blood mixed with my tears..it was too much to bear. Sobbing and vomiting, I just let loose on the pristine white floor. I must have blacked out, because the next thing I remember was being tied to a chair. I wasn’t in my clothes anymore, just a white robe. Surrounding me was my hair, covering the floor. If I didn’t look like a human before, I certainly didn’t then. I laughed softly to myself, wondering what could possibly happen next.

Part 4

There is a common misconception that events like this make a person stronger. I feel this is untrue, as at this very moment I feel at my weakest. I don’t feel that I am strong, I don’t feel as if I am vulnerable. I feel as though all I can do now is give up. My brothers and sister that survived, I can only hope continue to do so. We were all trained the same way, just they were younger than I. They have the same fight that I do, unfortunately, I just got caught. To this day, I have the demons inside that make me wonder if surviving this was worth it. To tell the story of the Alternates, the Mutts and the Humans. I can’t say if I am a stronger person than what I was when this started, when I began the War Against The Alternates. I can tell you my skin is riddled with scars, I can tell you I’m still as physically trained as I was when I lost my mother. I’m not strong. I just survive.

I was sitting there, giggling to myself when two Alts came in the room. I honestly can’t tell you if they were the same ones or not, but they seemed to be baffled by my laughing. Their bright blue eyes stared at me with curiosity.

“You won’t be laughing long” One grinned with their shark like smile. Interestingly enough, I never noticed the red tips on their teeth. I wondered slightly if I had that, or maybe he had just eaten a steak. I don’t think my mind was entirely there at this point.

“Why did you cut my hair?” I asked, simply. I continued laughing.

“For the tests” The other whispered. She stared at me, feeling like she touched my soul. Her glass eyes were stone cold. Apparently, she didn’t find my predicament very funny. I just kept laughing. I hear this was moments of hysteria. I didn’t particularly care, I just wanted them to kill me and get it done with. The male ran his head over my freshly shaven head.

“You’re different” he said. “We want to know why.”

“I’m a Mutt” I told him proudly. “A very well-trained Mutt.”

“No…not that.” The female whispered. I wondered if she ever spoke higher than that. “Your brain. It is different.”

“Yes, well I’m still a Mutt. A cross between a Human and Alternate? The things you keep executing for being alive? Any of this ringing any bells?”

The male hit me across the back of the head, hard. I spit blood out. The floor was clean…well, it was until I spit the blood on it. “Where is my brother?” I asked.

“Wherever your version of hell resides” The male grinned maniacally. Before I could respond, the female injected something into my neck. Searing pain spread through my body, burning, itching in my blood. I screamed, no longer able to laugh about the torture that was coming onto me. I almost blacked out, but before I could the pain abruptly stopped. I looked at my captors, tears streaming down my face.

“You will stay quiet until we talk to you” the female hissed in my ear. “You’ll keep facing that pain otherwise.”

I nodded, not wanting to feel the burning sensation again. Which I suppose was stupid, knowing who I was dealing with the pain returned within minutes.

“Sorry” the female hissed again “But we need to know.”

“Know what?!” I cried out “I don’t know what you are talking about? How do you even know I am different?!”

“We know” the male grumbled, seemingly unhappy that I was continued to be tortured. “You’re different.”

“Thank you for the clarification” I glared at him. The feeling was gone in my feet. A blessing maybe. “But if you could stop with the burning pain..”

“We need to know if you’re one of us.” he crossed his arm, and walked over. “You have the specks. You’re not a Mutt, or Human, or Alternate. What are you?”

Another injection. “I’m a Mutt!” I screamed, “I will always be a Mutt!”

I wish I could tell you what happened next, but apparently the female did not like my answer since she hit me hard enough to black out.

When I came to, I have no idea when. It could have been an hour, it could have been days. I still had no hair, the blood I had spit out was gone and no one was in the room with me. My arms and legs were still bound to the chair, and I could hear my stomach rumbling loudly.

“Don’t suppose you plan on feeding your prisoner…” I mumbled to myself. I tugged on the restraints, seeing if there was anyway to break free. No such luck. I tried rocking the chair, maybe if I could crush my hand I could get it out, but the chair was bolted down. There was no winning in this fight. So I sat and thought about my predicament.

I thought about what the Alts who had injected me had said. I have the specks. What are the specks? Can I get rid of them? Have I always had them? How long will I be here? How long had I been here already? Is the members of the Pack that escaped, are they still alive?

Before I could really think about it, my eyes exploded.



With Borderlands 2 and Aliens: Colonial Marines on their way, Gearbox Chief Creative Champion Mikey Neumann is a busy guy. Even with these two major projects, he has been writing a novel called The Returners, Part One made recently available on eBook through Amazon, or on his website bozpublishing.com. Neumann regularly tweets the progress of the novel, which he describes as “almost crowd-sourcing the editing process”.

The Returners is a fast paced science fiction work of art. The story begins following Alex Heaton and Chloe Freimont, a seemingly normal young couple, until a sudden gunfight sends them running. It turns out Alex and Chloe aren’t who they claim to be, and they have been found out. Alex is actually Alexander the Great, while Chloe is Joan of Arc, and they are among a group of Returners who have returned for a second life. Packed with historical references, fantastic action sequences and great humor, Neumann brings to life characters most don’t think of outside of their history class.

With everything going at such a quick pace, there are points where it seems a little rushed. There are some mind boggling bits towards the end of Part One (which, for obvious reasons I cannot tell you, but you’ll understand when you read it) but in knowing that is only the first part of an ongoing series, I’m able to brush it off. Its fairly well rounded, although some of the characters, from my point of view of Janey, need more of a backstory with the Returners. You find out rather quickly that she had grown up with one of the characters, but at the same time, not knowing can add to it. Its a double edge sword when you play too much with the history of characters, given that the Returners are originally someone else, you really can’t mess around too much.

Something to keep in mind when reading this is that it is Part One. I read it during the development (so, I was impatiently  waiting for each chapter) so if there are questions, know that there is plenty of time for questions to be answered. The story is solid, not held down with a lot of details. I tend to become bored quickly with stories that are heavily detailed, but with The Returners I never felt that need to skip over sections because of pointless details.

I really enjoyed what I have read so far of The Returners, and I’m eagerly awaiting Season Two!

Given his busy schedule, I didn’t want to bother Mr. Neumann too much with interview questions, but I did get the chance to ask him a couple regarding the novel.

Where did you come up with the concept of The Returners?

As the beginning of the book can attest, I was walking down Sunset Boulevard back to my hotel in Hollywood. We were doing recording for Aliens: Colonial Marines and I had a random idea for a short story I would write in my free time while I was out there. Halfway through the short, I realized I had just taken on a second novel. It seemed far too large of an idea to try and cram into something that small.

Fifteen chapters later, that still feels like a solid decision. I’m loving playing around in this universe.

How did you choose who would come back as a Returner? Do you have a favorite? Do you connect with any on a personal level?

I connect with all of them on different levels. I’m extremely careful about who and how I choose which returners will appear in the book. From a high level, I try to imagine what kind of archetype will serve the story the best. From there, I take some of those archetypal ideas and research for a similar historical figure. The last step is layering and plotting out their second upbringing and how that has affected them as a person–this is the step that creates a fully-fleshed out three-dimensional character.

As or favorites, thirteen year-old Albert Einsten is the most fun to write. I love how frustrated he is that all his existing knowledge is floating around in his head and he has no way to unlock it other than growing up again.

I think it would be interesting seeing The Returners done as a graphic novel, would that be something you would consider?

I haven’t begun to think about doing the story in different mediums. Especially not one where my audience would shrink my moving into it. Not that I have anything against graphic novels, but I’d like to grow my audience in a meaningful way if it’s going to start jumping around.

Having said all that, I am pretty sure that the story would work best as a television show. We’re in the golden age of TV right now and who wouldn’t want to get in on that?

Will you continue updating the story in the same manner that you did with Part 1?

Yes. All new chapters will be up for free on the website. This will not be changing anytime in the future.

I hope that people appreciate how the story is being delivered and invest in the eBook versions so I can make enough money to keep the site up and running, pay my editor, and so on.

Outside of The Returners, what do you recommend people should be reading?

I’ve been bouncing around and trying to find a novel (or series) that really grabs my attention. I can say without pause that 50 Shades of Grey was definitely not that novel. Heh.

Okay, for real. Ready Player One is my favorite novel of the last few years, easily. If you haven’t read that, you should get your brain checked and then dive in (provided your brain check cleared your for non-strenuous excitement of the Ernie Cline variety.)

The Mirage was a clever alt-history book I enjoyed.

Tweets by Simon Pegg.

The back of a box of Kix.

Those are all worth reading.

Check out The Returners, now in eBook format on Amazon, or on bozpublishing.com. You can also follow Mikey Neumann on Twitter for updates on the novel @mikeyface



et cetera