‘You’re going to the metropolis today Cara.’ Glen said, Cara’s heart falling out of her chest to the ground as he uttered the words.
‘Do I at least get a buddy-or a guide?’ she eventually let stumble out of her mouth as she struggled to compose herself
‘Never thought I’d ever hear you ask for such a thing,’ Glen responded, smirking at her clear discomfort before continuing, ‘I’m sorry but you must do it alone, we’re a day away from our confrontation and you’re the best ranger we have who isn’t elsewhere right now-’
‘No, you’re here!’
‘C’mon, you know I can’t leave in times like this Cara. What if they were to attack earlier than the other rangers have been reporting, we must be prepared for anything and everything those damned Gegner might throw at us, we cannot afford to lose so many years in this settlement we’ve built up.’
Damn it, Cara thought with a sigh, knowing if all the rangers senior to her were out, they couldn’t be called back and expected to return before the war was over. Damn those Gegner, I had a good few years before I could have naturally progressed to such a high risk zone, Though she did also think of herself as one of the better rangers and was glad in some capacity than Glen chose her, she still wanted to get better before moving to such a terrifying area. The tales of the place were clearly exaggerated, but there must be something, from the air that burns your skin to the creatures that hunt and feast on humans in swarms that had some truth to it. Especially since only the best rangers went there, but it was the question of how true they were was what haunted her. Either way, she thought as she looked at the other rangers trekking through the muddy ground into and out of the makeshift shacks and tents, and even some gathered around her and Glen. She was the only one who could make it, as terrifying as it was, she knew all of the others had no chance alone even in the zones she frequented by herself like it were a regular walk, I must do this for the survival of our tribe, whatever it is.
‘What is it you expect of me.’ she said shortly.
‘Good, you must travel there-I’ll lend you my cycle due to how time sensitive this task is,’ he began, waving his hand toward his rough looking cabin in the distance, away from the little war camp they built as a wall between the Gegner and the residents, ‘You must go there and look for a large dome near the heart of the metropolis, in there you will search for this.’-his waving arms now signalling for the small grouping to leave them in this conversation.
She found it odd that he wouldn’t do this elsewhere but then reminded herself of the time sensitivity of their circumstances. He took a small book out of the inner pocket of his leather jacket after the last ranger walked enough distance away. Then he began flicking through the pages, his thick and soot coated fingers shaking as they added to the grime that had accumulated on the pages until he exclaimed, ‘Ah!’ and showed her a page. It showed a simple sketch, showing a metal orb with blue light emitting from inside of it, despite its simplicity and detachment from what the original object was through said simplification, the object was so unique and unlike anything she had seen that she was confident that she’d be able to find it. She nodded to convey this to Glen.
‘Understood? Okay, once you’ve gotten into your gear,’ gesturing to her in her cozy trousers and jumper, ‘Take my cycle, and once you’re in the zone do not leave it until you’ve exited the area, good?’
‘Okay, what you’ll need there on top of your regular gear is one of the gas masks you’ve seen rangers wear, clothing that covers you as much as possible including a poncho, and a few extra explosives, Mr.Ramsay says the area is irradiated and that’s the protection you’d need, and the explosives would be for breaking through the debris and of course… those pests.’
‘They’re nothing you can’t handle so long as you stay on my cycle and use it’s various tools to their fullest extent.’
‘R-right… But what is this thing exactly, and why do I need to get it on such short notice, are the Gegner more of a threat than you thought?’
‘Yes, exactly, and to give you the what and why for this task, I’d need to make you take your final vow of silence, which would take time we just don’t have right now.’
‘Right, well, I’d best be getting ready then.’ she sighed, lingering slightly as she hoped he’d give her more information before she left.
‘Yes, go, go!’ he yelled, shooing her away with his flailing arms.
Once Cara had hurried to get on her ranger gear, including her dark green hooded poncho, and closely fitted dark trousers and top. Her complete face covering gas mask that she had almost never used, as much ammo as she could carry and extra grenades, both of which she put in her backpack which was promptly swung onto her back before doing the same for her father's old bolt action rifle over a single shoulder. She headed to the edge of town where the cycle waited for her, pointed directly at the metropolis, a dull and murky place just creeping over the Horizon. There was hardly anything stopping her going there, or whatever was there coming to this town besides the distance, the long muddy planes sparsely dotted with trees, more tree’s closer to her and less towards the dead city as the soil visibly got drier as the distance expanded.
She started up the silent cycle, leaning forward to reach the handles, where she had a good look at the display, telling her everything was in good condition and that her speed was 0. Let’s change that, she flexed her foot, pressing down her peddle and with a low humming sound found that the settlement she left was already able to fit fully into her field of view as it continued to shrink and she found her speed well over 100km/h.
The journey to the metropolis was long and boring, after all what was there but dry, cracked soil and dead plant life in this direction. The metropolis slowly grew as time went on, her home almost disappearing in the distance as she looked back a few hours in; And almost at the exact moment the settlement disappeared, as if by design, the sky began to change colour to match the murkiness of the still distant city, and so did the air surrounding her. She was now in the metropolis’ zone, she was ordered not to get off of the cycle from this point on, despite the thing still being quite distant from her.
Once she found herself passing the first, lower decrepit buildings and pieces of debris, her heart began beating harder, and she had to slow her breathing so as not to fog up her mask, especially since the red fog and sky made the visibility much worse already. She drove as fast as possible as she weaved through the town, being sure to avoid debris whilst still making her way to the centre of the city, painted with the large corpses of buildings that once held the human hives of the past. She was terrified, the air was certainly different and she was scared to even let herself touch it, occasionally scanning her body to make sure no skin was exposed. The place was eerily silent, to the point that the quiet hums the cycle was making were echoing with so little disruption that Cara was able to hear it clearly under her hood.
She eventually made it to the centre, only knowing she did so when she saw it. In a large square of dead soil surrounded by cracked concrete and towering buildings that desperately reached towards the sunless scarlet glowing heavens. A sizable dome that was clearly built more recently out of makeshift materials, like wood, stone and scrap metal collected from around this place, Who on earth could build in such a place? She questioned, as she left the concrete to go onto the soil square that led to the thing.
The dome had a very obvious opening that Cara immediately headed for. Once inside, her eyes adjusted slightly to see the orb, right in the centre. It’s fine metal somehow looked decades old, yet still hadn’t accrued a single stain or hint of rust, the blue glow was close to white and was created by a continuously alternating pyramid that was always growing and shrinking into and out of itself simultaneously whilst rotating. The sight dazzled Cara, but she was pulled out of it’s weird and beautiful nature by the distant sound of squeaks and unorganised marching. And that’s probably them, she thought as she took the thing off of it’s stand, struggling to put it into her backpack with one hand and increasing the speed of the cycle with the other.
Her increase in speed, she realised didn’t mean anything. She looked around and listened more attentively when she heard the same sounds coming from where she was headed, and also from either of her sides. This also allowed her to look at what they were exactly. Giant, jet black rodents with eyes that blended with the surrounding near crimson air whilst still standing out due to their laser aim.
I’ve got no shot at avoiding these crowds, she thought. They had her completely surrounded and were closing in on her swiftly as they were able to sprint and crawl over each other in a black and red mass that followed her whilst also closing the circle they had created around her, inward. I’ll have to pave my own path, she smirked at the thought, she was waiting to use some of her toys more, and her excitement to use them overshadowed her fear of this seemingly perilous situation.
She swiped her hand across the cycles display a few times until it displayed a rotating image of the vehicle, she clicked on the two wheels at the same time with her fingers, and dragged them down. Each interaction made a beeping sound that was louder than any sound she had made the entire way, but still completely lost to the screeching sound of the rodents. Once she confirmed she wanted to perform the action, the bike suddenly became stiff, driving forward without the need for her to keep it steady; in doing this, the wheels got wider and the seat moved to make Cara sit up. From this position she was able to scan her path ahead, behind the wave of incoming rodents she saw her entire path out of the city was actually a single, long and straight road. Good, she thought as she took her rifle and bag from her back, placing the bag in-between her legs and the rifle firm in her hands, pointing wherever her eyes darted, finding it’s barrel hovering over various sprinting rodents without firing; they were now within ten metres of her.
First thing Cara did at this point was take out a grenade and throw it into the crowd directly in front of her, giving her a road of guts and corpses to ride over. Second, she threw another behind her, except here she turned and shot the thing whilst it was still in the air. This in turn brought many of the creatures into the air, and flying past her head, nipping and biting and clawing at the air within centimetres of her hood, which was also pushed against the back of her head by the blast. The wave of flying creatures disrupted those that tried to fill the gap of their fallen allies in front of her. Allowing Cara to pick the ones that still attempted to get into her way off with her rifle. She found herself firing almost continuously, her comfort with this rifle made her firing of the bullet and cycling of the bolt a single fluid motion, a bystander could have easily thought that she was using a semi-automatic or even fully-automatic rifle of some kind.
She found herself past the hoard that now grouped into a single blob of creatures crawling and scratching to catch up to her, moving like some sort of convection current or tank tread in motion. Cara dry heaved at the sight and carefully placed a grenade on the ground as she sped forward. It exploded right in the front of the group, causing a moment of disorder in the mass that allowed her to throw everything back onto her back and lean into the interface once more. This time she did the inverse motion, swiping the wheels upward, causing the bike to return her and itself to their initial states. But then she did it again, causing the wheels to become thinner than they originally were, the seat to lean her forward, making her look like she was on all fours, and finally extending the glass display so that it arched over her head, stopping midway down her back. That’s when she heard the bike truly roar for the first time, increasing in speed with a jolt. Leaving the danger instantaneously.
She sped out of the metropolis at a high speed, finding her wheels on dry soil once again, thinking. God, I can’t wait to go back.