Universal Chaos

 

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Chapter 1 - Wrong Place

Sept 17, 2229

Large identical rusty apartment buildings surrounded a city street with few cars on it, though many people shambled around. Across the street from a quaint old monastery, a crowd encircled one spot on the sidewalk. The mob of humans yelled, their voices muddled together. Wendy could make out one phrase shouted every so often. 

"Go back to your world," hollered several in the crowd.

She joined in with the others holding up smartphones as they filmed what happened. One newcomer ran up to the back of the crowd and released a palm-sized drone. Flying up above everyone's heads, the drone had a clear view of the drama unfolding.

A few people kicked someone with ram horns, large ears sticking straight out, and pure white skin with a brown mottled pattern. The short hair on their head also had the white and brown markings. Flat on the ground the humanoid alien tried in vain to protect himself.

The alien no longer responding, the attackers got bored and walked away; pushing their way out of the crowd as a few onlookers threw random junk on top of the unmoving alien.

The crowd dispersed, and a few took selfies with the body behind them. Oblivious to everyone's interest in getting out of there, Wendy stood still with her smartphone camera pointed at the motionless body. 

"I think it’s dead," she said in a soft voice.

"Come on Wendy, let’s get out of here before the police show," said another young woman who had come back for her.

****

Gill Rune sat at the dining-room table across from his daughter. He wore a suit appearing to made of a carbon fiber mesh. Small metal computer interfaces implanted into his temples glistened, and his eyes had a slight blue tint of light coming from the pupils.

Poking his finger at a hologram of a cartoonish woman, he pulled his hand back as its dress changed to a different style.

"No, no." Four-year-old Sydnie poked at the hologram, turning the dress back. "It's supposed to be this one," she said oddly accentuating some of the syllables. 

"Oh, I see," said Gill leaning back in his chair.

A call came in; a notification only Gill could see displayed before his eyes and an alarm sound he alone could hear. Using his thoughts, he opened the message with the Aivot computer system implanted in his head and got up. "I’m sorry sweetie, but I have to go."

"No, Daddy... sit," said Sydnie pointing at the chair.

"I’m sorry, go tell your mother I’m going."

"Mommy won’t play with me."

Walking in, Maylis picked up Sydnie. "I’ll play with you for a bit."

"There’s an emergency I have to check out."

"Ok, Gill. We’ll see you next week. Say bye," said Maylis nudging their daughter"s wrist.

Burying her face into her mom, Sydnie didn't say anything.

Stepping forward, Gill put his hand on his daughter’s head and kissed the side of her face. She turned away hiding that cheek.

Turning, Gill hurried out of the apartment into a hallway lined with many other identical doors. He hastened to an elevator which opened upon his arrival. Once Gill got on, the doors closed and the elevator descended. Tapping his right hand's fingers against his leg, he waited. The doors opened into an indoor garage filled with cars, not a single space vacant. Maintaining his fast pace, he got to his car and its driver side door opened for him. Sitting behind the wheel, he relaxed into the seat, and the door shut itself. 

"66th Ave and North Broad," said Gill.

"66th Avenue and North Broad Street," said the car's computer.

"Yes."

Pulling out of the parking spot the car drove through the garage without Gill touching the driving wheel.

A non-stop ride later, Gill's car pulled up to where the crime occurred. Getting out and walking past a few people hanging around, Gill looked at the faces of each one. The Aivot system checked each face and displayed known information about the individuals. He strolled over to the exact spot where the ram-horned alien had died. The ground sprayed clean by firefighters, the area still smelled of urine. Accessing his Aivot, Gill gave it a list of certain people to scan for and identify.

He set an AI program to search for possible clues. It categorized some sharp objects. "No sharp objects," thought Gill and the Aivot removed those.

A minute later Gill walked off, and his Aivot mapped out a path. It directed him to the person he figured to be the most instrumental in solving this case. Entering a run-down apartment complex, Gill walked to an elevator, got on, and pushed an icon on its touchpad. The elevator descended one floor, and the doors opened. Getting off, he walked down a maze of corridors past many identical doors, except for the letters and numbers displayed on them. Stopping in front of apartment AU79, he touched the doorbell icon on a touchpad next to the door. 

"Yes, what do you want?" Keren Arwa's odd accent came through the door's speaker.

"Hello, I'm Gill Rune. I'm here to investigate your son's murder," he said holding up his smartphone screen to the door's camera.

"Um, um... Give me a minute to see if your ID checks out."

"Sure, I understand. I'll wait."

A minute later the door opened. Keren had ram horns and white skin which had a different brown mottled pattern on it than the other Chrysomallus alien did. She looked Gill up and down. "Please come in."

"Thank you." Gill entered the apartment and looked about the room. His Aivot system identified all potential threats; locations where someone might hide, where weapons could be hidden, sharp and blunt objects hard enough to do damage, heat sources, sources of metal. It searched to ID known weapon shapes including attempting to identify bulges in the pockets of clothes, but it did not find any. 

"Have a seat," said Keren motioning to the most comfortable chair in the room.

Sitting down, Gill looked up at her. "I would appreciate any information you have."

"What can you do? It was locals."

"And do you believe Anlon would have sent me to investigate if that was all there was to it?"

"...No, I suppose not. What are you saying?"

"It appears as if some locals have joined up with the G.E... Anlon wants them eliminated."

"Eliminated? And you mean what I think you mean?"

"I'm sure some will end up in prison. However, groups this hardcore tend to end up dead when attempting to apprehend them."

"I see. So you will avenge my son?"

"I will."

Keren sat down, sadness enshrouding her face. "You know we would have left Earth if we could have... You know right?"

"Yes, I know how it works."

"I know I'm too old with no skills Anlon wants... But could you help me get off this hell of a world?"

"You help me and by extension him, I'll see what I can arrange."

"Those people on the corner," she said looking down at the ground. "They're waiting for me to come out."

"They are to make a call when you do I take it?"

"Yes, then the ones you are looking for will probably come out."

"And you're willing to risk your life?"

Leaning forward Keren looked Gill in the eyes. "Yes, I'm willing to die to get them for what they have done." Clenching her jaw and holding her head high, she sat back.

"Then, I believe that's worth the money for a ride off-world," said Gill getting up.

Keren walked to the door, and Gill put his hand on her shoulder. "Pack a suitcase. You won’t be coming back here even if you live."

"I see," she said frowning and her head nodding down despite wanting to leave.

Accessing his Aivot, Gill searched for ships owned by Jovan Anlon and cross-referenced with Chrysomallus controlled worlds. One particular ship showing got Gill's attention; it showed a course set to go to multiple Chrysomallus worlds concluding the trip on the planet Colchis.

Not much later, Keren came out of her small bedroom with a large bag full of items.

"You do not have anything better to carry your stuff," said Gill; then thinking, "What the hell did I say that for." Keren did not reply, and Gill did not blame her. 

As they made their way out, Gill worried for Keren. Used to being in dangerous situations, he figured Keren was much more on edge. He hoped she would be able to go through with their plan.

"Texted your phone. Accept it, and I'll be able to track you... Just in case I lose sight of you," said Gill. 

"Ok," said Keren taking out her small smartphone and tapping on the message.

"Once out, turn right and head North. If I need you to do something else, I’ll text you." Gill thought up multiple predefined messages he could send at a moments notice.

A few minutes later, exiting the building alone, Keren departed in the direction Gill had told her to go.

In a minute, Gill came out of the building following her, his system scanning people, windows, doorways, vehicles, rooftops, and anywhere someone might be watching from. Releasing four palm-sized drones, he directed them to fly up high above him and spread out.

A block ahead of Gill, Keren lugged her big bag of personal items along. Three blocks away from the apartment building, Gill's Aivot system picked out two men walking across an intersection, and it analyzed the gaits of their walks. They matched what cameras had picked up the previous night from people leaving the attack. Gill ran and pulled out a Falchion gun in mid-transformation. 

Noticing the body language of how the two men came at her, Keren knew something wasn't right and braced herself for the first hit.

Close enough for his system to ID the men, the Aivot listed their personal information in Gill's eyes. Seeing both had lengthy criminal histories, Gill aimed his gun. His Aivot calculated where it pointed, showing him a circle and cross-hairs on his display. He fired and a red bolt of energy burned right through one man's head at the ear. The man fell face first with a thump. 

Startled, not believing what had just happened, the other man froze.

Running at him, Keren rammed him hard in the shoulder with her horns, and he fell. 

Yelling once from the sudden pain, he sprawled about on the ground. The guy tried to get up, desperate to make a run for it. However, Gill was right next to him in a second aiming the Falchion gun in his face. "Don't move, and talk fast. Who recruited you?"

"Fuck you man, we’ll kill you," said the guy sitting up, fear and anger vying for dominance inside him.

"I work for Anlon. You or your friends hurt me and the whole galaxy comes down on your heads."

"Shit! Man, you're bluffing."

Gill turned to Keren. "Go to the location I texted you and follow the instructions." Using his Aivot, Gill sent her a text message he had previously thought out and saved.

"Ok, thank you." Proud for getting a hit in, yet shaking like a leaf, she hurried off as best she could with her bag.

Turning his attention back onto the guy, Gill stepped closer to him. "Now, the more we wait here, the more likely your friends will show up, but that won't end well for you. As soon as they show up, you'll be the first to die. I only need one informant alive." 

"Ok." The man was sure Gill meant the threat. Taking a deep breath, he looked up at Gill, his eyes wide and palms facing up. "Look, there's a place in New York."

An alarm blared in Gill's head. The drones he had released earlier spotted many known registered violent criminals converging on his location. Not waiting for a reply, Gill decided plan B would be less dangerous, and he ran for his car. 

The man got up off the ground cursing, frustrated and feeling emasculated. He stomped over to one of the men who showed up. Seconds later police sirens could be heard and the streets cleared.

Sitting in his car, Gill watched his display as it showed the movement of the man he left. His AI system had hacked the man's phone; Gill had location, sound, and video access to use.

Locating Keren, Gill offered her a ride to the ship off world.

She wanted to know what happened but didn't want to talk about it. Keren assumed Gill had killed the man and Gill was not going to tell her he was using the man to collect more information. So they rode on in silence.

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Chapter 2 - Wrong Place too

Sept 18, 2229

Before the sun rose, Gill got out of his bed in a tiny apartment much like a cheap hotel room. The bed and a small table with a single chair decorated the home. A small bathroom jutted out from one corner, and a closet took up another. Between them stood the front door. At the back, a small window looked out over the gray world and rain poured down on tall buildings as far as the eye could see. 

In his white boxer shorts, Gill ambled to the shower. Setting his Aivot to play a Malvina Reynolds song "What Have They Done To The Rain," covered by Marianne Faithfull. His head filled with music. An eerie sensation of coming from his ears but also some indiscernible location; his brain's way of attempting to figure out how to interpret new sensory input it did not evolve for.

An ancient song of course, but Gill did not care much for most modern music. As a teenager, he figured he would search the net for the first audio recording of music ever made. Gill enjoyed the less convoluted, straightforward genres. The manageable amount of artist he found comforting; no flooding the market with millions of new songs a day. It took too long for his liking to find one good song by searching through modern music. So, he limited his search parameters by date and occasionally increased the year if an artist he liked still produced music after his previous cutoff point. 

Not closing the door to the bathroom, Gill took off his boxers and stepped into the shower; it turned on. The water flowed out at the preset temperature with no waiting for it to equalize. He enjoyed the sound of the water drops hitting the floor. Five minutes later the water turned off, bright pinpoint white lights came on, and fans blew warm air. Dried in seconds, Gill stepped out. He thought of shaving but did not bother to.

Opening the closet, Gill grabbed a pair of boxers; the hanger released them from its clasps. All the boxers, socks, and T-shirts hanging up were white. All of the suits were the same as each other.

Finished dressing, Gill held his dark-blue tie close to his neck, and it attached itself. 

Gill's Aivot alerted him to a call. "Answer," he thought and the system connected to his smartphone. "Hello, sweetie."

The animated face of his daughter Sydnie beamed with happiness from his display. "Hi, daddy. Look," said Sydnie speaking loud and holding up a tablet with a drawing of a unicorn riding on top of a spaceship.

"Wow, that's pretty imaginative." Gill downloaded the image file from the tablet.

Sydnie looked at the tablet, glanced back at her Dad, and back at her drawing again. "Mommy helped."

"Oh."

"She said to draw a spaceship... So, I drew a spaceship. Then I wanted to draw a unicorn... So, I drew a unicorn." Sydnie pronounced drew and draw in a peculiar way. Looking back at her drawing, she stared at it for a second. "Do you like it?" 

"I love it," said Gill smiling.

Multitasking, Gill viewed the information gathered from the smartphone hack of the G.E recruit.

Opening her eyes wide, his daughter moved her face close to the smartphone camera. "Come over."

"I can't right now."

"Oh." She frowned and her eyelids drooped.

"We can play a game." Gill connected to her tablet with his Aivot and opened a game.

"No, no. Picture." Sydnie tapped the tablet and got her drawing to come back on the screen. 

"Ok, we can play on the phone," said Gill accessing her smartphone.

A half-eaten dried out biscuit sat atop a paper wrapper on the table. Gill picked it up and took a bite, heading out to his car.

Moving her character on the game, Sydnie looked at her Dad's face in the top right corner, unaware it was a representation of his current face and expression created by AI. 

"Daddy," she said cheesed off.

"Sorry sweetie," said Gill, moving his character.

****

In a small industrial zone nestled in between high hills, a run-down old factory building clanged with noise. Inside people worked on an enormous humanoid mechanized machine laid on its back. Supported by scaffolding the arkvee had workers laboring around it. Large red Dunamis crystals in a concave equilateral decagon star shape protruded out of the machine and ended in a point.

In one corner of the factory, Diesel yelled over the noise to Joe a foot away. "We're all set up to attack the Chrysomallus. Just need to get in position."

"Too bad the arkvee ain't ready... Would have been a breeze. Level the whole area. Bunch of demon horn loving freaks living there with them," said Joe.

"We got bigger plans for that Onslaught. Don’t need it for those demon-sheep. And put that drone and exo-armor in the truck. They work. We’re moving them out of here."

"Those idiot pirates. What're we going to do with a Rephaim exo-armor?"

"I’m sure we’ll figure something out."

Outside Joe covered the drone in the back of his pickup truck with a tarp. He and Diesel loaded the large Rephaim exo-armor in next. Way too big for a human to wear, Joe chucked it in the back feeling it had no value. It clanked off the pickup truck's cargo bed. Joe couldn't hurt it treating it in such a way, not even if he took a sledgehammer to it. 

"Hey. I found out what your name means," said Joe, bending over to pick up another part.

"You really enjoy learning useless information, don't you?"

"You're named after a fuel," said Joe snickering. "Yeah. One used in pickup trucks even... Long time ago." 

"Like a type of battery chemical?"

"No, a liquid fuel for engines."

"Whatever. Just deliver this stuff," said Diesel throwing the last piece in.

"Ok." Joe climbed into the driver's seat. "You know they used to think everyone would have flying cars by now, not just the government and the rich."

"Just go." Shaking his head, Diesel walked back into the factory.

****

As the sun set, Snorri plodded along down the sidewalk. A tall, broad alien man with a long neck, Snorri made sure not to make eye contact with anyone. It might have helped a little, but it did not stop people from throwing trash at him; though they gave the big man lots of space. A few hustled into the street around parked cars to feel extra safe. Not built for an alien species as broad as him, the sidewalk was too narrow for anyone to pass him while he walked on it. 

"Go back to where you came from you stupid Rephaim," said someone not pronouncing all the words right and throwing an empty plastic juice pouch at him.

Snorri did not look up and walked on.

Coming down the block, Wendy looked at her smartphone the whole time, oblivious of Snorri right in front of her. A gust of wind blew, and her dark blue, oversized T-shirt flapped in the wind. 

Almost bumping into Snorri, Wendy startled, pulling the phone away from her face. "Ew!"

Snorri jerked to a stop for a second and turned sideways, squeezing past while careful not to touch her.

****

"What's wrong with me. Why'd I say that?" Thought Wendy feeling bad. Embarrassed, Wendy hurried on her way, a wave of heat flushing through her.

Not much later, a group of teenagers approached her.

"Hey, Wendy. Can you fix my phone?" One young woman held out her smartphone.

"What's wrong with it?" Wendy said in her soft voice and taking the smartphone.

"It won't unfold."

Wendy poked at the screen and handed it back to the young woman. "Unlock it."

Taking out her own phone, Wendy sent a request to the young woman's smartphone. "Accept to authorize me access to your phone."

"Ok," said the young woman tapping on the request's accept icon.

Wendy took the smartphone back. With one in each hand, she used her thumbs to navigate through both smartphones. "It's a physical problem. I'll have to take it home to fix." 

"Ugg," said the young woman slouching her shoulders and leaning her head back. "When will I get it back?" 

"If you're out front of my place at 6:00am, I'll give it to you then. Fixed or not."

"Aw come on. All night. What am I going to do?"

"Well, you can keep it for now. A company's going to charge you a spine and a brain to fix it." 

"No. I'll be there in the morning."

"Six o'clock."

"Come on Wendy. Six. Really."

"It has to be six or earlier."

"Ok. Six. You're crazy... but smart... Thank you."

Wendy put each phone away in different pockets and continued on home.

****

While listening in on the G.E recruit's smartphone he hacked, Gill logged the faces that came within the camera's sight. None of the photos or videos on the smartphone were of much help concerning the G.E, though Gill kept them in his database. 

Not getting any visual from the phone anymore and done with his other work, Gill headed to his apartment. He would wait for his AI programs to report more information before deciding what to do next.

Listening in Gill heard a door open and close. Silent for a while then a lot of scuffling sounds and grunting the hacked smartphone disconnected from Gill's system.

Gill contacted the local authorities.

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Chapter 3 - Top Off

Sept 19, 2229

The next morning. Inside an old closed-down store, two young men, Lel and Erwin sat around poking at their smartphones. Lel's smartphone unfolded a few times to have a seventeen-inch screen as he used the base for game controls.

A knock sounded from the back door. "He's here." Erwin got up dumping a small bag of chips on the ground. Indifferent to the spilled chips, he put his smartphone away.

Lel had his smartphone fold back up and put it in his pocket as they hurried to the door.

Opening the door, Erwin saw Joe carried a large helmet.

"Here." Joe shoved the helmet into Erwin's stomach.

"Umph... What's this, Sir?"

"It's Rephaim exo-armor. We're unloading it. You and the new recruit can keep an eye on it." 

Lel didn't say anything. He carried some of the exo-armor and hid it behind a dusty pile of vintage clothes.

Getting all the pieces in the building, they buried them with some more clothes.

"You'll stay here and guard this place newbie," said Erwin punching Lel in the shoulder in a light-hearted manner.

"Come on." Lel tilted his head back and bit his lower lip.

"Only following orders. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure ya get into action real soon."

Joe and Erwin got in the pickup truck and drove off.

Once they had left, Lel wandered over to the Rephaim exo-armor, took the helmet, and strolled back to the front room. He put it down on a table and sat down studying it. A minute later he got out his phone, unfolded it, and played a game.

****

With the local authorities not being the fastest to get an operation going, Gill sat waiting in his car. Having his car pull over to the curb, he opened a window. A small drone flew out and up into the sky. On his display, he observed a twenty story building two blocks away from him. Between larger apartment buildings and towering skyscrapers, it had one entrance on the front. 

A black truck hovering twenty feet above Gill flew past at high speed. Video Gill received from his drones showed three more trucks flying in from different directions. One landed on the roof of the twenty story building. The other three were in front of the building at different levels. 

Piling out of the truck on the roof a SWAT team formed a semicircle. A silver squid-like Sepiida drone about six feet long came out of it. It stood on its tentacles, and a glowing yellow Dunamis crystal came out from the center where the legs met. The Sepiida lowered its main body section closer to the roof, and the Dunamis cut a circle through it with ease. The circular slice fell into the building, and the drone put its tentacles together, climbing down into the hole. The SWAT team jumped in one by one. 

The other trucks hovered out front, opened their rear doors, and backed up to windows. The SWAT teams blasted the window frames, kicked them in, and leaped. 

Gill accessed the Sepiida's system and could see what it saw. The SWAT team was unaware of the level of access he had in their government systems.

Inside, the drone floated down the hallway. If any residents of the building used to be out in the open, they were sure to be hiding after all the noise. 

Following close behind the Sepiida the SWAT team had one member covering their backs.

The drone scanned right through the walls, locating people. Using its metal appendages, it pushed a door cracking it into pieces; many metal locks broke off the door and fell with clunks to the floor. Wrapping its tentacles around the door frame, it pulled itself and floated into the room. 

The SWAT team poured into the room. Cowering in fear in a corner, a family of a mother and three children screamed, tears running down their faces.

The mother stretched out her arm. She held a smartphone out for the SWAT team to see.

****

That evening, humans and Chrysomallus played a ball game in the street. The area was far from skyscrapers but covered with identical apartment buildings for miles. Rickety foldable old tables with some food and drinks stood on the sidewalk.

Speeding down each direction of the street in pickup trucks, the G.E members raised their weapons and opened fire on the small crowd of partygoers.

Screaming the partiers looked about in fear. Some ran for their lives; others tried to hide. Getting hit some fell while others got shot but still ran. Confused in the sudden chaos many ran one way, turned, and ran back; caught in the crossfire. 

Carrying a crying baby, one Chrysomallus got shot in the back and fell knocking a woman in a wheelchair over and dropping the baby. Rolling across the hard cement, the baby screamed louder. 

The Chrysomallus screamed. "I can't move."

The baby crying, the woman from the wheelchair crawled over to the baby. Grabbing onto it with one hand she dragged the baby and herself down some stairs to a cellar entrance.

Tears fell from the paralyzed Chrysomallus woman's eyes. "Help me, please."

Out of sight the woman held onto the baby and put up her smartphone as close as she could to the touchpad. It verified her ID and opened the door. She pushed the baby in and pulled herself in. More shots rang out nearby, and she shut the door. It locked. 

Screeching to a stop, the G.E members got out of the trucks. Some scrambled after the easy targets out in the open. The many screams faded away one by one till no more could be heard. Others G.E booked it to the apartment buildings and put bombs in front of the entrances, blowing the secure apartment buildings' doors right off.

All the people outside slaughtered, the G.E rushed into the buildings. One G.E member tried to kick a door in, but that didn't work. Blasting the locks the next kick got the door open. No Chrysomallus were inside, but the G.E opened fire on the family anyway. 

Door after door, person after person, the G.E exterminated anyone they came across. Alarms sounded from devices on their wrists, and they all ran back to the trucks piling in and speeding off into the days growing darkness. 

A minute later the living heard sirens. Red and blue flashing lights descended from the sky as police cars flew to the massacre.

****

While going over the intel he had gathered from CCTC databases, a news alert showed up on Gill's display. Watching what the news-drones filmed, Gill saw the police blocking off the area and a bunch of bodies in the distance. 

He accessed the CCTV camera databases covering the area. He scanned through for vehicles coming and going from the site of the massacre. Telling his car to head there, Gill sat back and continued his search as it drove. 

A call came in, and Gill answered.

"Hello Gill," said Maylis.

"Hello Maylis," said Gill.

"Saw the news. You’re not going to get yourself killed are you?"

"I'll be careful. This tech in my head gives me a significant advantage."

"Until you run into someone else with it. Or someone wearing exo-armor."

"Yes. We need to stop the G.E before they get their hands on something like that." Gill knew full well the G.E had an arkvee somewhere.

"It's... just that Sydnie needs you. Anlon has an army. He doesn't need you."

"Earth needs this to be taken care of. We don’t want Sydnie growing up on a violent, dangerous world. Sooner or later we're all caught in the crossfire. You know that."

"Yes."

"I'll be careful. There are plans in place."

"Ok."

"Bye. I’ll call in the morning to talk to Sydnie."

"Bye," said Maylis ending the call.

Later, Gill made it to the scene of the massacre and showed his smartphone screen to the first police officer who stopped him. The officer let Gill past and pointed him to the one in charge. Walking over to the other officer, Gill showed his ID again.

The officer looked at the screen, looked left and right, then back at Gill. "Look, Agent Rune... word has gotten around that an Agent of Jovan Anlon has been showing interest in these G.E punks, but come on. That last call, I'm guessing you made, and no G.E."

"Yes, that was me. I apologize. I suspected they had found out and cleared out. However... after this, we should have enough to go on to find a major base of operations." 

"Why is Anlon involved in this? This is our jurisdiction. We don't like being bossed around out of the blue for unknown reasons."

"How many humans were killed?"

"About forty-eight."

"Then it looks as if you'll be a hero if we take down these G.E around here. Anything you can give me?"

"Yeah, some video from the upper floor windows. They were wearing masks as usual. I'm sure they burned their clothes after as well."

"They always make a mistake eventually. Especially with new recruits. And I want the information on the vehicles anyway."

****

Alone in a small dark room, the tall and broad Snorri rubbed the back of his long neck with one hand. 

"Snorri is the best there is. Snorri is professional. Will stay out of trouble. Humans will not know... And Snorri will bide his time... Snorri will wait... Snorri's Selrahc family will be pleased with Snorri..."

Snorri left his room, wandered down a hallway just big enough for him to fit, and walked out of the front of the apartment complex he lived in.

A dark blue car with the letters PMC on the side pulled up in front of him. The back door facing him opened and he forced his large body inside, rocking the car as he struggled. The door closed and the self-driving car drove off.

A nonstop ride, the car took him to the Philadelphia Municipal Court. Shaking the car as he pulled and pushed, Snorri got out and stomped into the Courthouse.

Walking over to a security officer, Snorri held out his smartphone, showing them the screen. "Snorri is here to go to jury duty."

"Over in that line," said the officer pointing to a winding line of people surrounded by low dividers formed of holograms.

Snorri lumbered through the light barriers ignoring the designated path. The last person in line inched forward as much as he could upon noticing Snorri came up behind him.

The line progressed fast, and Snorri showed his smartphone screen with the jury duty summons. They let him walk through the scanner. 

Inside the jury duty area, an employee asked for his name and to see the jury duty summons. She scanned the screen on Snorri's smartphone and instructed him to fill out the information form on his smartphone if he had not already and to take a seat. Snorri headed into a large room with many people inside. He looked for a place to sit. Seeing two available seats on the end of a row a little ways back, he trudged over and sat in both. 

Waiting for half an hour, he wondered why nothing had started yet. He had shown up at the assigned time. Shifting in his seat, he also straightened his back. 

A court employee came in. "A list of fifty names have been randomly selected. Check your phones and if you have been selected push ok. It will tell you what judge you have been assigned to. Leave that screen open, you'll need to remember." She walked out.

Ten minutes later she came back. "Fifty more have been selected. If you have not already been assigned a judge, check your phones." She left.

About half an hour later she came back. "Ok. Anyone assigned to Judge ____, line up in two lines up against this wall." She pointed to her left.

After all fifty people lined up, someone else came to get them. They filed out of the room.

Things went on like that for hours. Sore, Snorri shifted his weight and waited.

Fifty people came back and sat back down.

Snorri was finally assigned and got his hopes up things would be moving along for him. An hour later he was told to line up against the wall. His group got led out of the room to another room, and he waited again but with no place to sit. They had to line up in a few lines of people in number order. 

The woman who brought them to the room got each person to upload the form they filled out to her smartphone. She left.

Fifteen minutes later she came back and called out a list of numbers assigned to people. The woman told Snorri and others to go back to the waiting room. She led the ones who got picked to the courtroom. 

Back in the waiting room Snorri sat down in two seats in the front row. Not long after an employee came in and told everyone left, they could go home. 

Getting up, Snorri felt as though he had wasted his time for nothing. He wondered what the point was and there had to be a better way. Kind of angry, he felt it was stupid that he came. Being registered as a citizen had not seemed to ever have any real point to it to him. 

****

On her way home Wendy saw some young men harassing a boy. Not thinking much of it she kept walking. One of the young men hit the boy, and Wendy stopped. She shuffled over to them, biting her bottom lip. "Hey, leave him alone." 

Stopping, the young men looked at her. Smirking, one of the young men got in Wendy's face. "What's that? I couldn’t hear you."

"Leave him alone."

"What? Didn't your momma teach you how to speak up?"

Placing herself in front of the boy, Wendy glared at the young men and had no idea of how to respond verbally.

"Well, speak up. It's hard to hear you," said the young man.

"I'm speaking as loud as I can," said Wendy in her soft voice.

"Well, it's not good enough."

"I'm not going to let you attack the kid. You'll get hurt one way or the other if you don't leave us alone."

"Ok, tough bitch. You think you're the cops."

Stepping forward, the young man lifted his chin, frowning and glaring to intimidate Wendy. A mistake on his part as she did not hesitate to uppercut his angry face. With a crack, she felt pain shutter through the thin bones in her hand. The young man fell over dazed. 

The boy took the opportunity and ran away from the bullies.

Fighting back her tears, Wendy walked off. The other young men did not stop her. While walking away, she tried to open her fist. The attempt hurt too much, so she left her hand curled up. 

****

In the old closed-down store, Lel folded his phone's screen back down and put it in his pocket. Getting up he grabbed the Rephaim exo-armor's helmet and exited out the back door. Looking around, making sure to look behind himself, he opened the trunk and threw the helmet in.

Late that night, Erwin came back. "Awe, ya missed it! All over the news, shit. Sheep died like sheep, baa."

"Yeah, I know," said Lel.

"Come on. The armors still here right?"

Lel approached the hidden pile and removed some clothes, showing a leg and torso of the exo-armor.

"Cool. I'll take my new buddy out for a drink to celebrate our victory over the sheep. Baa baa," said Erwin laughing.

****

Tracking the G.E who fled the massacre, Gill's AI programs found useful information from CCTV databases east of the attack. Earlier, the G.E members who left ahead of the SWAT raid had traveled north. Those two lines converged on a spot narrowing down Gill's search area.

Searching the local CCTV databases for the area, Gill used AI to calculate the most likely places capable of hiding an arkvee. Once he had the information, he sent drones over to ID anyone in the area. 

A good long wait later he got a hit. In front of a decrepit house, one of the vehicles he tracked had been spotted earlier in the day. It was in one of the few areas in the Northeast United States with trees. He had gotten the hit from a citizen's car camera. They must have signed up to share their data with the county. Gill hoped it wasn't a trap as he set a program to find the identity of the car's owner.

Redirecting his drones to the house, Gill sat back and loaded his gun with a small red Dunamis crystal as his car made its way there.

The car pulled up to the house. Gill had not seen anything on the drone's cameras the whole way. No visual signs, no heat signatures, no movement, no communications, encrypted or otherwise, nothing on scans, not even any cars driving by.

Getting out, Gill crept up to the front door as some of his drones circled the house. Pulling out his Falchion gun, Gill scanned through the door for any metal, explosives, or energy signatures which might have been on the other side. An old door, Gill grabbed the handle, turned, and opened the door with a sudden shove. Holding his Falchion out in front of himself, he barged in. 

In the center of the room laid the G.E man Gill spied on using the man's smartphone, his head chopped off.

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Chapter 4 - Half Gone

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Chapter 5 - All Gone

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Chapter 6 - Wrong Time

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Chapter 7 - The Time Will Come

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Chapter 8 - Now

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Chapter 9 - Action

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Chapter 10 - Turning Around

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Chapter 11 - Struggle

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Chapter 12 - Visit

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Chapter 13 - Arriving

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Chapter 14 - Should Have Been There

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Chapter 15 - Bad Guys

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Chapter 16 - All Hell

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Chapter 17 - Breaks Loose

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Chapter 18 - The End

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~

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