Today I’m releasing the first part of a short story I wrote which was previously rejected for publication (did I have too many errors? Or was it that bad? Hm). It’s six roughly equal parts for a total of about 11,500 words (6-7 book pages per post). I’m also serializing this on Wattpad, so feel free to find me there too. Here I’ll post a new part once a week. This is fantasy/sci-fi. Feel free to offer comments or swap stories.
Sometime in the near future The world is no longer what we once remember it to be. Nationalism has become so fierce that war is now the biggest global economic driver, but which has been outsourced to private mercenary armies to carry out.
An individual calling himself or herself “King” has appeared in the heat of battle to seize a portion of Arizona and New Mexico, setting up a home base in a labyrinth known as “The Palace”. Standing alone to face these new enemies is a small group of former soldiers, rogue bandits, and outcasts called the Chameleons, a group of twenty people who know they can never end the hardened state of warfare around the world, but who fight on nonetheless to do their part to stop as much of it as they can. Led by a gray-haired man who goes by the name Cutter, the Chameleons must reach The Palace and try to stop the “King” from beginning a war with even more tragic consequences than any war humans could ever dream up.
North Point, Arizona, former Hopi Reservation. Cutter tossed his cigarette and stared down his opponent standing about twenty-five feet away. He had expected something else- perhaps a common street thief plundering abandoned homes, or at least an army of rogue mercenaries roaming the desert in search of supplies or hideouts for their next war. The worst-case scenario would be running into government soldiers deployed to track down and kill disloyal citizens. But instead he found his eyes locked onto the cold gray eyes of a Closterim scout and its jagged orange-glowing Sun Sword, prepared to strike.
And it did, somersaulting toward Cutter so quickly he had to dive behind a burned-out car to avoid a slash from the Sun Sword. The cyborg held the blade up so the weapon could absorb the ultraviolet rays glaring down on the desert landscape. Cutter knew that, at maximum solar charge, it could sear his body.
Cutter had learned some jujitsu and judo from his days training as a Special Forces agent with the secret GEMINI unit of the United States Army Rangers, and he had his custom-built K-24 nine-millimeter handgun ready to be fired, though he preferred not to use lethal weapons unless he absolutely had to.
But these cyborgs were not ordinary people and could not be wounded by ordinary bullets. Pyrotek, a greasy-brown-haired engineer who became a Chameleon after he defected from the forced labor camps of New Age Global Armor Tech-the international weapons contractor that manufactured the Closterim-had given him a rundown of their anatomy: a human brain taken from an dying person and strapped into metal machines, kept alive on oxygen and liquid food tubes which fed into a stomach and then through artificially-created arteries leading to the brain. A nanochip implanted into their brains kept them moving and under their master’s control, whether that was the mysterious and untraceable computer program known as Arawn or some other source. Thanks to the nanochips and silver data cores in the chest area of their suits, the cyborg Closterim were able to kill more swiftly and more ruthlessly than an aging former special operations agent.
The Closterim scout slashed the Sun Sword through the car and Cutter did a sideways roll out of the way. He took out an Electro-Impulse Grenade, an explosive the size and shape of a quarter, and tossed it towards the Closterim. George Washington’s head popped off and as soon as the coin hit the ground, an electric pulse rippled through the dirt street of this now-ghost town.
The coin did its trick; the Closterim was stunned and fell to the ground. Cutter ran forward and, as soon as the cyborg was able to stand, grappled its arms, pulled them together, and tossed the metallic body over his shoulder judo-style. The Closterim’s body hit the ground with a crunch!
Cutter wasted no time running over to it, ripping off its cool metal chest plate from its hinges and pulling the silver data core out of the center of its chest. He wanted to pull out the nanochip and let this mostly-dead machine body rest in peace, but before he could act he heard the sound of machine parts and heavy footsteps approaching from around the corner. The odds were not hard to sum up-his single pistol and two remaining smoke grenades, three EIG’s, and a hunting knife would not help him last against what sounded like a small army of Closterim.
He saw a partially-busted window accessible fifty feet to his left and, without hesitating, crashed through the glass. He felt shards of glass hit his exposed face, but most of his body was covered in his custom-made color-changing rubber Mirror Suit, so he escaped with only a couple of cuts to his right cheek. The rest of the shards bounce harmlessly off his suit and hit the floor.
He could hear the footsteps from the street, as headlights from the Closterim’s suits scanned the area for signs of human activity. Their data processors came with the ability to follow DNA back to its original source, so he knew he had only a short amount of time to cover his tracks and get away before they traced his DNA to the window.
He reached into his utility belt and found one of Pyrotek’s handmade specialties; an Atomic Shredding Laser, a converted laser pointer with enough power to cut through metal or burn specific particles; in this case, his DNA trail. The ASL was specially configured to Cutter’s fingerprints so he alone could operate it. He used the red removal laser to obliterate all traces of his DNA on the ground by the window and then he looked around for a place to hide for the moment.
He saw he was in a home which had remained largely undamaged by the war; paintings of flowers and still fruit covered the green and black-striped walls which housed three wooden night tables and a clear-colored coffee table with several dark red chairs around it. A dark red sofa sat along the wall closest to him.
Panting more than usual, he put a gloved hand to the wall and felt around until he found the spot where the wood foundation was weakest. He used the ASL’s blue cutting laser to cut a large square hole he could climb through. As soon as he was inside the wall foundation he pushed the piece of wood back in and held it with the bottom of his boots.
“Pyrotek,” he said into the quarter-sized satellite phone stuffed into his headset. Pyrotek had specially modified the phone so it couldn’t be traced. “Come in, Pyrotek.”
“Here, Cutter,” Pyrotek said in his normally high-pitched voice. “What happened?”
“Closterim. I stopped one but there’s more. This part of Arizona’s been taken over completely.”
“That’s too bad.” Pyrotek’s voice cut out momentarily and then he returned. “This new kingdom just doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop growing, is it?”
“Yea,” Cutter said. “That Closterim scout back there carried a Sun Sword. I wasn’t expecting that.”
“There’ve been a lot of changes, Cutter,” Pyrotek said. “A lot of bad changes, and it seems like things are getting worse.”
Cutter carried a pack of cigarettes and he stopped to smoke one. He knew he wasn’t supposed to smoke; the other Chameleons had told him not to do it. Not that he cared; he never told the other Chameleons, but there was something wrong with his body no one and no thing could heal; the cigarettes were merely a brief respite for his pain.
“Smoking again, Cutter?”
“How did you know?” Cutter said as he continued.
“Inside a wall? That’s a wooden house and you know smoke and wood-“
“Don’t remind me, Pyrotek.” Cutter felt like a few muscles in his back were strained; “Are you monitoring the situation? How’s the rest of our team?”
Pyrotek was silent for a moment. “Pyrotek? Pyrotek?” Cutter’s blood pressure surged and he immediately felt cold and anxious. He reached back into his utility belt for a Lisinopril tablet which slowed his blood pressure down. He had been warned not to exert too much emotion in order to keep it under control, but the battlefield was no place to remain calm.
“Cutter…” Pyrotek’s voice was coming in faintly. “Most of the other Chameleons are dead.”
“WHAT?!” Cutter slammed his fist into the wall. The Chameleons were outnumbered on the battlefield against the American military, the mercenaries deployed in the country’s Southwest region, or the Closterim army. The Chameleons couldn’t keep up their activism if they sustained even a single casualty. “Dead? How-“
“Some of them were found by Closterim soldiers as they tried to scout North Point out for KeyKey-“ Pyrotek was referring to a tiny robotic monkey on wheels equipped with military computer technology and extendable legs, his first-ever invention. He paused, and then resumed: “-so KeyKey could gather more information on the Closterim before we try to break into The Palace. The others are strong but not like you. They never had a chance.” Somehow Cutter knew Pyrotek was shaking his head. “At last count fourteen of us are either confirmed KIA or are MIA with no signal from their Pulse Watches.” Pyrotek referred to one of New Age Global Armor Tech’s inventions, a concept he stole from the company when he fled it and distributed to every Chameleon: watches which sent heart beat signals to Pyrotek’s computer so he could keep track of their movements from a distance.
Cutter put the cigarette out and stared into space. Neither smoking nor the Lisinopril had calmed him down.
“Pyrotek, who’s still confirmed alive and moving?”
“Kevlar, Cherise, Rigatoni, M.K., Spezzna, and you,” came the reply. “Spezzna is hiding now in a house across the street from you. His Pulse Watch is sending off weak signals so I can’t pinpoint his exact location. The other four are together in the cellar of what I think used to be a restaurant of some kind. I couldn’t tell. The photo KeyKey uploaded was real grainy-“
“Got it,” Cutter said. “Pyrotek, use KeyKey to monitor the area and as soon as the way is clear tell the others to head east towards the mountains and wait. I remember the map of North Point and the surrounding area and we’re about twenty-two miles due west of Red Valley, along the New Mexico border. We know The Palace is somewhere in that area. Closterim have one weakness and that’s that their bionic legs are not very good at climbing steep elevations. We’ll be safe from them if we make it to the mountains.”
“And what about you? You can’t stay in a hole in the wall forever-“
“I’ll go find Spezzna and together we’ll head for the mountains. My Mirror Suit hasn’t been noticed yet so I can still get around without being spotted. If anyone is still alive here I doubt they’ll tell the Closterim where we are. Hell, any humans still alive in these parts will be happy to see real people and not cyborgs.”
“That’s true,” Pyrotek said. Whoever had implanted the nanochips and silver data cores into the Closterim’s bodies had not given them the ability to show any emotion other than fight or flight. And mostly it was fight. “I’m on it. As soon as they’re safe I’ll send KeyKey your way to help you get out.”
“We’re so close,” Cutter said. He turned off his phone and stared at the wall, deep in thought. So close. No one who stands against the one called “King” has made it even this far and lived. All that’s left is to find Spezzna, cross miles of steep mountain terrain, and then- The Palace.