This is part two and continues the story from part one which was written by Angela Cavanaugh and is available here. I recommend you read this first.
Men like me… men like me… men like me…
While my shoulders and arms burned from exertion, my memory of their last message cycled through my head. A constant beat, it kept me focused me as I scaled the wall of the fortress. Upwards towards the waste ducts spewing filth down the sides of the massive walls. The pounding sleet was not helping matters, but I clung on, fuelled by rage and revenge. Arm-over-arm, my aching hands gripped the reinforced concrete joins and dragged my sickening body towards my goal.
The walls were built on a slight inwards angle to better resist the attacks of extreme weather, which eased my climb somewhat, but it was still gruelling work. I had left most of my equipment below, keeping only the essentials; goggles, carbon dark-suit (in waterproof pouch), climbing gloves, tough nylon cable, and a simple double edged carbon knife. Any more would be weigh me down on the climb, and be detectible once inside.
Men like me.
My teeth ground as the phrase rolled around in my mind, angrily scratching at the sides. The very traits that made me such a valuable tool in clearing the way for their new world made me too much of a risk to keep around to live in it.
Innovative. Relentless. Merciless.
Unnecessary. Unpalatable. Unwanted.
Men like me.
I felt a molar shift then pop out of its socket under the pressure of my clenched jaw. I spat it out in a long stream of bright red pit and heard it clicking as it rolled down the fortress wall. I knew the radiation must have settled deep to be affecting my gums already. Hanging six stories above ground level, I was glad my muscles were still my own; it couldn’t be long till it took out my central nervous system. I had to hurry.
With a lunge, I grabbed the lip of the waste duct and dragged my head and shoulders inside. Processed sewerage, rubbish and radioactive runoff funnelled from the fortress dome hit me full in the face, threatening to cast me back, until I was able to wedge myself against the sides. I was grateful for my goggles, otherwise I would have been blinded by the muck. Carefully I crab-slid my way sideways, working my way into the immensely thick walls, moving inwards and upwards against the quick flowing corruption swirling about my chest.
I shuffled this way for an interminable length of time in the dark, stopping only to cough lungful after ragged lungful into the filth sodden scarf I had wrapped around my head. My teeth continued to drop, one by one, leaving gaping wounds in my gums. I needed to regularly swallow, as the blood would not stop flowing and filled my mouth.
I was falling apart.
As I moved I thought about the inheritors of this new world. I contemplated the privileged few, ensconced in their towers under the dome, looking down on the mere mortals, scuttling technicians, scientists, teachers all labouring to maintain this structure, working to keep the boots firmly on own their necks. The utopia I had imagined, had worked for, was never possible. I killed, I had been killed, to entrench the power of the powerful.
All men are fools. Even men like me.
The pipe opened up into a massive chamber so suddenly I slipped and fell, briefly going under and taking in a lungful of the icy sludge. I clawed my way to the surface gagging, dragging my way onto a long maintenance ladder, hooking my elbows around it as I vomited in long, heaving spasms. When they subsided, I ascended, one rung at a time until I reached the hatch. I took a breath, closed my eyes and turned the wheel.
As I expected, the hatch was unsecured. The fortress was designed to keep out the environment, not people. There were not meant to be any people left outside. No need for strict security measures when all that remains outside is a toxic wasteland. A wasteland and millions upon millions of rotting dead.
My cracked lips curled into a sneer. Not all dead.
I stood in a long narrow corridor of bare concrete and grey steel pipes. An orange light slowly started to glow, reacting to my presence. I used it to get ready. Stripping off naked, I cleaned myself as best I could, then put on the skin tight carbon dark-suit. I reached out and put my thumb through the sensor returning the corridor into darkness. I disappeared.
It was time to decide which way to move so I listened. From the right I could hear the deep bass thrumming of a huge engine., to the left nothing… no. Wait. A whistle.
Grasping the carbon blade I started running towards the whistler. As exhausted as I was, I covered the distance quickly, and he wasn’t expecting anyone to be here. I had a quick glimpse of my victim, a maintenance tech, carrying a toolbox and a clip board, whistling tunelessly. Wearing the dark-suit and coming from the unlit corridor I was invisible until it was too late. There was no time for him to scream as I moved in close, ducking low under the startled man’s clipboard, before pushing up with my legs, both hands on the carbon knife’s hilt. I drove the blade up through the man’s chin with enough force for the crosspiece to shatter the his jaw, while the twelve inch blade broke through the top of his skull and pierced through his hard hat.
I held him there, keeping him upright as he kicked about, flinching and twisting on my knife as he died. Once certain, I lowered his body, removed my knife and wiped it on his corpse.
I had to move quickly now. Not only was it getting increasingly difficult to breath, this man would be missed in his maintenance routine soon. Disposal would be pointless, I didn’t have time to do a full clean, and his blood was still pooling on the floor. I grabbed his maintenance pass and then stepped over the body, heading down the corridor to my goal.
I had work to do.
Ok – I found this a real challenge. Continuing someone else’s story was super hard work. I suppose that’s good for me, keeps me learning, but it was slow going!
Anyway, let me know what you think.