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Escaping Terra, Exposure (Part One)

Miscellaneous By: C0alMyner
Science fiction



In the mid-24th century, humanity took to the stars. Over time, the colonies grew restless. One year, at an armistice meeting, a man's faulty translator accidentally broadcasted an insult that ignited humanity's first interstellar war. Earth lost. By the year 2806, the last Terran humans are huddling in bunkers just waiting to die. Somehow, somewhere, a deadly global epidemic has re-animated the dead, driving Earth's humans to extinction. Except for two young brothers...


Submitted:Nov 6, 2011    Reads: 43    Comments: 2    Likes: 1   


Escaping Terra (Part One)

*ESCAPE

It was once foretold that of the twenty-one billion human beings on Planet Earth, only two lowly brothers survived the ongoing Sol System War. While these two young boys weren't alive at the start of the war-which started nearly 300 years earlier, they knew of their situation. Earth was dying, but leaving was almost impossible! But somehow, the Hayes brothers abandoned Earth and all her mysteries…

-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War" Delta Canopis Publishing Corp., 3001)

I

Anchorage, Alaska

Bunker Apartment N-66

September 20, 2806, 11:37 A.M.

During the regular mid-morning announcements, Hunter Hayes and his little brother Walker learned of a virus that had broken out in the upper levels, apparently caused by radiation-mutated bio-warfare bomb leavings. Somehow, the disease penetrated the facility's air filters, and of the 1200 people initially infected on the four upper levels of the underground city, few survived. Ever paranoid about pandemics, Hunter prepares to leave.

"But you can't leave the upper levels without a suit!" Walker shrilly yelps,

"I know," Hunter says, "But I don't like the idea of this. Such a deadly disease, those bombs carried, and if you take radiation into account, there'd be no survivors! Prep the portables, just in case."

As Walker went off to do his brother's bidding, a young woman is seen limping oddly far down the next hall, with a strange moan and mottled flesh…

*REBIRTH

Oddly enough, this strange contagion didn't actually remain isolated at the Anchorage bunker, or even originate there! It was a desperate attempt by Lunar forces to eliminate the last of Earth's life for good. It did its job, and everyone died. Trouble is, most of them didn't stay dead…

-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War")

II

Anchorage, Alaska

Bunker Apartment N-66

October 12, 2806, 7:33 A.M.

"Come on, Hunter!" Walker shouted as he picked up his rucksack, "We're going to be late for-What the?!"

Frozen in both awe and fear, Walker stands mouth agape glaring at an oncoming horde of limping, moaning beings slowly advancing for him.

"I'm coming, I'm-(pauses) Walker!" Hunter yells as he sees his little brother being lowered into one of the creatures' mouths, "Walker! Kick his chest!!"

After doing so, this (zombie? Let's go with that,) creature released its grip in pain, but also alerted the other things, causing them to start suddenly sprinting ungracefully at Walker and Hunter.

Almost by instinct, the two brothers fell back into their apartment.

"What the hell are those things?!!" Walker screamed after a long struggle to close the heavy steel door,

"I have no idea," Hunter said, "But I think it's time to go. Grab the first aid kit, two camping packs, and dad's old peacekeeper weapons. And you watch your language!"

After a frantic ten minutes' scavenging, the Hayes brothers located two weeks of canned and freeze-dried food, a Swiss Army knife, an automatic .44 magnum, a twenty-gauge shotgun, and two swords (similar to Japanese katanas, but shorter). As they packed the last of their supplies into their packs, they failed to notice that their front window was breaking…

* * *

Port Aldrin, Luna

October 12, 2806, 7:45 A.M.

A small shuttle is seen returning to a Lunar port, but not docking. Two dozen men in white suits march out a starboard hatch, walking through the vacuum, entering a special room attached to an airlock, where their suits are cleaned and polished to an even shinier white than before. The last person, before entering the facility, stops, points a strange beam at the floating shuttle, twists a few knobs on his suit, and sprints into the facility as the shuttle flies off and implodes.

After disinfection, and removal of their suits, the last person, revealed to be a woman, orders her troops to their bunks, while she sets off for the general's office.

"Lieutenant Cruz! I see you dyed your hair!" the general says,

"No, it's just sun-bleached. I'm normally an auburn," Cruz confesses, "What's that"

"That is the last little pocket of resistance fighting your virus, Grace," the man says as he points to a monitor, "Seems like your weapon of mass destruction has some unwanted effects!"

The general points to an image of two boys in what appears to be their final stand. Backed in a corner, the older one is fighting with a pistol and some odd kind of sword, while the younger one is only using a sword. When the boy breaks his blade and pulls out a shotgun, the general cuts off the feed.

"I don't think they'll last long…" the general says,

III

Anchorage, Alaska

Bunker Apartment N-66

October 12, 2806, 7:46 A.M.

"SHOOT!" Hunter shouted, "PUMP THE EFFING GUN AND SHOOT!"

Walker followed these instructions quickly, and forced at least a dozen creatures from the room. Hunter and Walker foresaw this opportunity to sling on their packs, reload their guns, and bolt out the door, with a few berserk zombies chasing after them.

Once they thought it was safe to look, the boys broke into the city's library and hit the computers for schematics- of the bunker. The Anchorage bunker, like others before it, is a "hub" bunker, meaning it has connections to the sea, allowing safe travel or trade outside the facility without contacting the radiation and diseases of the surface. Hunter and Walker are using these schematics to find their way to a submarine or other transport to abandon their bunker.

"A-ha!" Hunter said, "Hey, Walker! You got that route yet?"

"Yeah! What did you find?" Walker asked,

"I just discovered that there's about four submarines at the next dock!"

"Alright, let's go!"

"Sure, let's-Wait, let me see that route?" Hunter said, "Not so fast, dude. The dock is about 20 miles away; it'll take us about a week to-Hey! My corn!"

While the two boys were squabbling over the can, a message from somewhere in Eastern Europe began playing on a monitor…

"Attention all surviving humans" the man said, "This is senator Daniel Tennant of the Royal Intergalactic Naval Government, or R.I.N.G. for short. Anyways, as you are probably aware, a massive and highly lethal virus has overcome what's left of humanity, but let me assure you, there are survivors.

"We are using the last of our space-worthy ships to evacuate our surviving population from Earth to the moon, or Mars, or whoever will let us down to their surface. Any surviving humans will be given ten weeks, about until Christmastime, to report to the hub bunkers at the Western UK, and Africa's New Mombassa andBrisbane, Australiafacilities, the locations of our ships. If you don't report in 10 weeks, you will be left behind. Tennant out."

The message played three more times, and the brothers were still arguing about whose corn was whose. But, as they came to an agreement, Walker heard the last of the message, giving the Brother's Hayes the one thing they still needed; a place to go…

* * *

Anchorage, Alaska

Bunker Apartment Block V

October 19, 2806, 9:30 P.M.

The further down the bunker the boys went, the more glamorous, clean, and glitzy-looking the apartments were appearing…

"Why?" Walker repeatedly asked,

"I'm not sure," Hunter explained, "But I think it's because the richer people got to live further away from the poisons and radiations of above, so the government made those rooms more expensive to live in. That or, if anything were to go wrong, they'd have easy access to the sea."

Actually, Hunter was exactly right. Back at the start of the war, locations all around the world started building large nuclear bunkers about as big as the 21st century cities they were named after, but it initially came at a price. The farther down your apartment was, save the levels Z and AA (which had the cheapest costs, due to them being maintenance crew levels), the fatter your wallet had to be to own it. It should also be noted that any levels between CC and ZXX (the lowest level of the bunker) were not living quarters, but were actually for things like power grids and farms. The Hayes brothers are heading to DE, or the airlocks for submarines to escape Alaska in.

"Peacekeeper HQ?" Hunter wondered as he opened the door, "I think I, -- AH!" Hunter just located the main meeting area for the bunker's police force, known as Peacekeepers. When he opened the door, the remaining beings in the facility had been reanimated, giving a nasty surprise to Hunter and Walker…

*THINK FAST

From what has been told, this second major encounter was much more difficult than the others previously mentioned, because these were undead and armored cops! Before they got infected, a group of twelve to twenty officers (Sadly, the exact number has been lost to time) armored up and readied for battle, reanimating minutes later. Hunter and Walker entered this room with low ammunition and a nearly broken short sword, having to fight creatures with Kevlar vests and steel helmets…

-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War")

IV

Anchorage, Alaska

Bunker Apartment Block V- Peacekeeper Headquarters

October 19, 2806, 9:30 P.M.

"Peacekeeper HQ?" Hunter wondered as he opened the door, "I think I,-- AH!" As hunter was about to let out a shriek high-pitched for a seventeen-year-old boy, Walker quickly slaps a hand over his older brother's mouth.

"Shush! I don't think they notice us; the helmets are covering their ears, and look at those pitch-black faceplates! Their HUD batteries must be dead, so they probably can't see…" Walker whispers, still hand-gagging Hunter,

After a few pondering seconds, Hunter finally stammers "Okay, s-so how are we on ammo?"

"Well, your pistol's out, and my shotgun has a dozen shells left, counting the seven in the gun."

"Good to know. But just to be safe…"

Down the hall, two loud bangs are heard, setting klaxons off all across the level. The creatures dart out of the room as fast as they can, toward the source.

Huddled in a dark corner, Walker angrily whispers "Was it REALLY necessary to shoot those chickens?!"

"Well, it was either the two shells to break the glass and attract those zombies away, or the whole twelve shells and my broken sword to try to kill them! What would you do?"

Without a response, the two brothers waited…

When they thought it was safe, they scouted out the room. Bite marks, dry pools of congealed blood, and deep scratches on the walls had strewn the facility. After some quick searching, the boys have to give up their father's weapons for compatible ammunition. Abandoning the shotgun, empty pistol, and broken sword, Walker and Hunter leave with a semiautomatic rifle, two revolver pistols, and a twelve-gauge shotgun of semiautomatic capabilities, a major upgrade over their dad's.

"Hey, look! A turbo-lift!" Walker says as he loads his rifle,

"A what? If this old thing works, then we can get down to the docks in half an hour! Let's see how this goes…"

After a few random button presses, and an anger infused pistol-whip, the air pressure-driven capsule slowly started to drop, then shot like a bullet, as far down as it could.

* * *

Port Aldrin, Luna

A-Dock Security Center

October 20, 2806, 4:02 A.M.

"CRUZ! WAKE UP!" the corporal bellowed from the intercom, "You are NEEDED in the SECURITY OFFICES!"

With a yawn and a grunt, young Grace shuffled out of her sleep shift, into her fatigues, and sleepily walked down to the office.

"What do you want, general?" she said as she rubbed her eyes,

"Well," the man said with an annoyed grimace, "It seems that there's more survivors to Cruz's Plague than we thought! The British folk are rounding up about 20,000 survivors, and are prepping ships for takeoff!"

Snapping awake, Grace said, "What the hell do you want ME to do about it?"

"Adapt your virus. Adapt it, sabotage those damn Brits, and KILL EARTH OFF!"

* * *

Back on Earth, a door creaks open to the sound of the under-used lift door opening…

Trying to adjust to the darkness from the almost pure-white light of the elevator took awhile, so Hunter marched forth, shotgun in hand.

"Son…" a familiar voice moans, "Hunter! Walker! Is that you?" Next, some growls, an eerie gurgling, and a deep moan are heard.

Keeping themselves quiet, the boys close the turbo-lift doors and cut off their flashlights, using the ambience from various indicators and computers to dimly light their way.

"Here we be," Walker whispered, "Pick a sub. Got the maps?"

Hunter responded with "Right here. Let's… Take… This one. Fill the bags with plenty of fresh water. There's enough food on there for months, and we can get oxygen from the surrounding waters. But I wouldn't trust the desalination filters… Go!"

*CLOSE CALLS

"…Though ever-confident, my boys had almost no sea-faring experience, save for basic courses on how to surface the craft in a pinch. What I would like to know, is how did they ever manage to even fight their way into the craft, what with all those-those things around!"

Many accounts on how the brothers escaped were fictional, half-truths, or exaggerations. Much like the "interview" of their dead father (shown above), which was recorded in 2552, nearly 300 years before he was born! Though there was indeed the odd zombie, who was quickly dispatched with a bullet through the skull, it wasn't like the theatrical undead "shooting galleries" of 21st century post-apocalyptic fiction. But alas, there were challenges, such as getting to Madagascar, the closest British launch pad to the brothers by Christmas…

-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War")

V

Houston Center, Luna

Eastern Comms Office

October 20, 2806, 7:30 A.M.

"Send out a message to the Martian factories. Patch me through for radio chat, we need to save money." Grace says to a worker,

"Okay, I'll do it. It'll take a bit though" the boy responds, "This isn't really a good time, the Earth is between us and them, but I-"

"Then patch us through via the recon fleet!"

"Yessir!"

After some fiddling around with buttons and the passing of a microphone, Lieutenant Cruz finally gets to put in her request:

"Hey, Ensign Apolo? It's Grace. I need to requisition for a biological warfare missile. Large classes, XPS-130 type cluster shots, 20 warheads, deliver to Sinos Roris. God, I wish it didn't take 45 minutes to contact you… Oh, and use the high-G fourteen day route, no six-month hibernation."

Later that day, Grace receives a text message, saying "Sure thing, hon, on the way as we 'speak'. What do you need them for?"

She started to pick up her tablet to respond about spreading her virus without wasting a shuttle, but she deletes it, simply types "general's orders", and hops off for breakfast.

* * *

"Hunter! Shut the hatch!" Walker shouts as Hunter gathers the last of the supplies, At one point a trio of berserk zombies found their way to the brother's Hayes' newfound submarine. They tried their best to avoid them, until now, with Hunter sprinting back to the hatch, two of the zombies in hot pursuit. After running a lap around the dock to get a lead, Hunter throws the supplies in the door, and is starting to close it, when the zombies started forcing the lead-lined door back open! Hunter releases a hand off the hatch handle, draws his pistol, and as one of the creatures was about to make a meal out of Hunter's arm, he pulls back the hammer, presses the barrel against the zombie's forehead, and pulls the trigger.

After kicking the corpse out the hatch and killing the other zombie, Hunter catches a glimpse of an I.D. badge on the first creature's chest: A man named Robin Hayes-better known as Walker and Hunter's father! With an "oh shoot" feeling on his mind, Hunter closed and sealed the heavy, lead-lined hatch, joined Walker on the bridge, and set off.

" Where are we going again?" Walker asks, "Was it Mombassa, or London?"

"Neither. Mombassa's too far to make it in time, and London's landlocked. Set a course for Brisbane, we've only got two months until Christmas!"

All across the sub, the two young brothers piloted and maintained the craft to the very best of their limited abilities. However, there was going to be problems sooner or later…

* * *

"Well, Walker, it's Thanksgiving Day, we've eaten the turkey dinner-sorta--, but now, we've got a dilemma!" Hunter said,

"And just what would that be?" Walker asked,
"Your birthday is in a few days, and I don't know what to cook you!"

As Hunter trotted off to see what food there was to use, a small warning light chimed over in the ship's bridge, repeatedly flashing "MISSILE ALERT"…

*COSMOCIDE

Though that missile would eventually affect the brothers more than they could ever believe, they were safe for the moment. That was the last missile to strike Earth for good. The one to deliver the diabolical brainchild of Lieutenant Grace Augustine Cruz…

-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War")

VI

200 Miles Off the Coast of Austrailia

Alaska Submarine HB-0327

December 10, 2806, 6:00 A.M.

"Hunter, wake up!" Walker squeakily said, still cheery from his fourteenth birthday two weeks earlier, "Look! LAND HO!"

Coming back from his deep slumber, Hunter responds with "Really? Did you release the probe?" Realizing Walker didn't, Hunter slips up to the bridge, pulls a pin, and watches a monitor. These probes are what replaced periscopes back in the 22nd century, just small cameras on a 250-foot cable, allowing for the submarine to stay deep and still observe. That's how the Terran navy took back the aquatic world 276 Exrun in 2430, because when a probe was discovered, the cable would be cut to drift away, putting surface ships on a wild goose chase!

"Walker. I couldn't get anything on the camera. Just heavily polluted water, and an orange-gray cloudy sky. Now where is this 'land'?" Hunter said as he reeled in the cable,

"Take a look!" Walker said, "On the long range radar! When I scale it out like so…"

Walker turns a dial at a console, and with every "ping" of the radar, a huge blot of land would grow agonizingly closer…

"Oh!" Hunter realized, "Wait, you see that button, the one that says 'filters'? Push that, and select 'metal'!"

In doing so, a large cluster of geometric shapes started showing up in the corner of the screen. As the ship's main computer started thinking about what the shapes might be, they started getting smaller and more detailed, eventually morphing into a large cluster of British spacecraft launch platforms, vehicles still waiting to take off.

"Turn the sub towards that dock about a mile off the pads. Pull that lever back to full speed. We should be there by Christmas Eve!" Hunter brightly announces…

* * *

Houston Center, Luna

Terran Monitoring Center

December 10, 2806, 7:30 A.M.

"Grace, come here!" a tech at the monitor said, "You might want to come see this! Did you adapt that virus like you were told, or did you just simply concentrate the original one?"

"I adapted my virus, why'd you ask?" Grace asks,

"Take a look!"

The tech fiddles around with her keyboard, repositioning a near-dead satellite over the African (now-derelict) mega-city New Mombassa, specifically a British launch pad cluster. Zooming the camera in as far as possible, one could see a young woman running desperately from a large group of berserk zombies, possibly family members, judging the close resemblance. The woman is brandishing a strange blue-silver pistol (greatly resembling 20th century hairdryers), wildly shooting at the horde. With the glowing projectiles randomly spraying about, one strikes a zombie in the chest. With the zombie passing out on the ground and swelling up, the girl starts desperately clawing at New Mombassa's city seawall. Oddly enough, not much happened before the camera went out, except some sort of orange-red gas bubbling from the zombie's orifices, some of the living zombie's bodies disintegrating on contact with the gas, and the woman raising the pistol to her temple…

"I think," Grace says after the shock of the gun discharging, "That that's a new development…"

VII

Nigerian-Annexed Territory, Madagascar

(Abandoned) Submarine Dock J-64B

December 23, 2806, 11:32 P.M.

On a chilly, humid, quiet December night, a low deep hum is heard from the shallow polluted water. Somewhere back in the facility, a display lights up, as that hum grows louder. In red capital letters, the display reads "+20hZ, +40hZ, +60hZ," gradually counting up until the display turns green at +100hZ, causing the dock chamber to come to life in a bustle of fluorescent lamps, robot arms, hydraulic whines, and oversize hatches opening. Five minutes later, the main bulkhead of the dock opens, revealing the upper hatch of an old military submarine gliding almost effortlessly through the inky black ocean…

"Walker, we're here," Hunter quietly says, "Wake up. The ships are-by what the message said, leaving in a matter of hours. We still have those two miles to traverse. We have to go now if we want to make it."

When little Walker wouldn't wake up, Hunter got on the sub's intercom and shouted "A-WOOGA! A-WOOGA! Walker, we're taking on water! AAAH!" Walker quickly snapped awake, snatched his revolver from the hanging holster, and got a dry click when he pointed it at Hunter--, he forgot to pull the hammer back.

Surprised he was still alive, but hiding it really well, Hunter simply picks up the rifle, and passes the shotgun to Walker, and says, "Put your suit on, we're leaving."

Little did the brothers Hayes know, that those weapons would get their work cut out for them over the next few hours…

*ISOLATION

It is at this point where the legends start coming into play. Mostly consisting of two lowly people grabbing the biggest weapons possible, and "kicking arse", or simply fighting off the huge horde with nothing more than a rock and/or an assassin's pistol. Only one thing throughout these stories is true-there was a large twenty thousand-strong horde of heavily mutated humanoid creatures, and two teenage brothers to escape their attacks.

-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War")

VIII

Emergency Survival Shelter (Port Aldrin), Luna

Oxygen Pod 227-AA

December 24, 2806, 12:01 A.M.

Grace wakes up dazed, confused, and in an unfamiliar environment. In the tight confines of this precious pocket of air, she can see the absolute basics for any deep-space survival system: A bare-bones spacesuit (no armor plates or enhanced movement servos), three days' worth of freeze-dried food, an oxygen flood system for the pod, a 15-yard roll of duct tape, and a water filter.

Grace tries wriggling into the heavy suit-not an easy task in the low gravity, but she slips in, unwittingly putting a hairline crack in her visor. Thinking she's ready, she slowly opens the door on the tiny pod, pulling the surrounding air into the icy vacuum outside.

My ears are popping, she thinks, it's all normal. Probably just the situation I'm in, but it hurts more than usual

Suddenly, she realizes it's not the situation; her suit has a leak! Scrambling around trying to find where the air is seeping out, young Grace falls out of her pod.

Good, she thinks, more room to look.

Finally, with her suit nearing lethal pressure, Grace sees the source: that crack in the visor. Ears about to burst, and her nose dripping blood, Grace stumbles over to an unoccupied pod to grab the duct tape, and quickly seals up the leak.

She turns around and notices the large hole in wall, taking note of the suited bodies lying just outside, and takes a laser pistol from a dead security guard.

Loading the weapon with a power cell, Grace begins searching for answers as to why the facility was popped open, why everyone was killed except her, and how the hell did she get into that pod!

* * *

Brisbane, Australia

Superhighway 21, 1.1 Miles from Launch Pads

December 24, 2806, 3:00 A.M.

It has taken nearly four hours for Hunter and Walker Hayes to get to the halfway point of their final run for the ships that the British government-in-exile had promised. So far, it has been a rough trip. While yes, it was only a two mile trip to the launch pads, try moving as quickly as possible in a four-hundred pound suit, plus the weight of the firearms and ammunition you're carrying, all the while keeping quiet that an undead army doesn't swarm you, and doing your best not to trip on a packed and abandoned freeway, knowing the slightest bump or crack could puncture that thin shield protecting you from the poisonous atmosphere around you?

Anyways, it's a cold, clear, full-mooned night. The boys are quietly slinking along this massive forty-lane highway, guns at the ready.

"Walker, stop!" Hunter whispers over the radio, "I can see the launch pads, right over there!"

Walker responds with "Okay, but why did we have to stop?"

"Just look at the freeway ahead…"

Walker looks, and he sees why they've stopped. A large plane, a Boeing 949 to be precise, had slammed into the freeway perhaps hundreds of years ago, leaving a large hole in the road, just slightly larger than the craft's 250-foot wingspan, the last standing twenty of the highway being an unstable, crumbling strip of concrete, electrical wiring, and rebar.

Choosing between potentially dying trying to cross a bridge, and certainly reanimating if they stay, the Hayes brothers push forward.

"Walker, you'll have to go first." Hunter almost sadistically says,

"Wh-What?!" Walker responds in surprise, "Why me?!"

"Because that strip of concrete probably won't hold yours and my weight combined."

"Well, then you go first!"

After a good fifteen minutes' arguing, a lone zombie notices their presence…

"But it's crumbling-Walker! Shut off your suit lights!"

Fumbling around with the switches on their helmets, the boys cut off their lights, almost blending perfectly with the night if their suits were black.

Hunter pulls a camera off the side of his helmet, attaching it to his rifle (just behind the foresight), and scans around. On a special display inside his helmet, Hunter searches the freeway around them, the camera on a night-vision setting. He spots that lone zombie about to moan.

Screwing a suppressor improperly on the end of his rifle, Hunter lines up the sights of his rifle on the zombie's head, and pulls the trigger. After shattering the misaligned suppressor on the gun, Hunter takes another shot, killing the zombie and alerting all the others in the area with the thunderous crack. Taking another quick scan of the freeway, the brothers spot a large pack of creatures coming their way!

"Hunter! Trade me weapons!" Walker shouted halfway along the crumbling bridge,

Hunter tosses his rifle to Walker, who tosses a shotgun back. Walker slaps a button on his chest, activating the movement-enhancing motors in his suit, allowing him to dart across the bridge faster, despite the extra weight. Hunter, who began hurling buckshot at the zombies, followed suit, and continued backing along the bridge, holding back the horde pretty well, until about halfway along, the shotgun let off a dry click. Hunter tried pumping the gun, then switching the semiautomatic setting off and pumping the gun again, until he realized, he was out of ammo!

Not thinking about what to do next, Hunter hurls the heavy gun at the oncoming creatures, and bolts across the remainder of the bridge in a few graceful strides.

Walker, watching all this, began pushing a fuel truck towards the bridge. Hunter takes back his rifle, and begins holding off the group with carefully aligned headshots, for the rifle is almost empty too!

When he caught on to what Walker was doing, Hunter slung the rifle, and began assisting his little brother, drawing his revolver to defend them as they pushed the truck.

Flipping the vehicle on its side to block the bridge that much more, Walker draws his pistol while Hunter reloads and holsters his.

"So what were you planning on doing?" Hunter says, gasping for air,

"When you threw my shotgun away, I knew I wouldn't need the last four shells in my pack, so I started thinking about how to destroy the bridge." Walker says, as he kills two zombies in one shot,

"Ah! I see, now stop shooting, save your ammo. Give me those shells, run, I've got an idea!" Hunter says,

Hunter tosses the shells on the ground near the tank of the truck, and then carefully places the (NUCLEAR) power core of a nearby sedan into the mix. That AAA-battery sized core would be the approximate equivalent of a tank of gas in the ancient (but popular) Toyota Camry. Though yes, the core is nuclear, it has been sitting dormant for nearly six hundred years. Anyways, as Walker scrambles into a nearby pickup truck, Hunter takes cover behind a car door as he readies his rifle for its last bullet, takes aim, and fires. That shot produces an underpowered-looking explosion for a half-empty 30,000-gallon tanker truck, four well-aligned shotgun shells, and a nearly dead miniature nuclear reactor, but it was enough to destroy the thick-but-crumbling bridge-and to almost kill Hunter…

*ATTACK

Now if you remember, the Sol System War was ongoing, meaning the massacre at Port Aldrin was just another skirmish…

The unknown forces that brought hell to the facility had assumed they'd killed everybody.

But in times of war, you never want to fully assume…

-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War")

Port Aldrin, Luna

(Exact Location Unavailable)

December 24, 2806, 4:13 A.M.

After cautiously slinking through the shattered, airless facility, it became pretty clear as to what happened. Grace flipped the settings on her pistol to infrared beams. Though not as powerful as the standard laser beam, it would help stretch the two-and-a-half power cells she has, not to mention the invisible beam will help to maintain whatever stealth she has left.

Hugging the walls in a dark corner, Grace starts fiddling around with the touchpad on her arm. Checking the oxygen levels on her suit, she determines that she won't have enough air to breathe if she had to fight for long. After tapping the "radio" sections of her suit to see if anybody else was still alive (which there wasn't), Grace accidentally heard two people speaking in one of those "blend languages", just a mish-mash of common languages on Earth. These guys were seemingly Earth-Asian, speaking mainly Japanese, Russian, and New Imperial Chinese. Grace, who outside of English was only fluent in German, placed a text translator on her suit helmet screen. Here's what she dug up:

"(Processing, please wait) So everybody's dead, right?"

"They better not be, if (intelligible, probability personal reference) is dead, then our search for (the) creator of Cruz's Plague will have [been] a complete waste."

"What (profanity term) that?!!"

Grace gasped when she read "Cruz's Plague", alerting the patrol to her presence. She flipped the safety on her pistol off, slid down to one knee, and readied herself to shoot. She read the words "around the corner, lets go" an instant after she saw the beam of a flashlight. Holding her pistol a little tighter, she almost screamed when she saw what was around the flashlight; eight large gun barrels!

Oh, shoot, a railgun! Grace thought, Um, uh, a-ha!

Grace squeezes off a shot down the hall, causing the patrol's attention to be focused on the generator she just restarted. Collapsing on the floor and turning her head, she spots a symbol nobody within 10 light-years of Earth has seen since the early 2600's: the symbol of the long-lost Shuriken starfleet!

*COMEBACK

Back in 2606, when the war really began to take off, many Asian countries, especially China, India, Japan, and Korea, began removing rank-and-file troops from their selectively bred armies. Combining them with women from an "optimum" gene pool and a modestly sized fleet of military starships (with experimental faster-than-light drive engines), and the two fleets named Katana and Shuriken, after the ships' Japanese origin, and you've got the farthest any human beings have been from Earth.

But in 2651, the quarter-million person crew, the 500-ship fleet, was suddenly lost. Though the communications systems at the Polyphemus colony, the closest one to the fleet, was capable of recieving a message from the ships within a week, the rest of humanity gave up the search after several months of unsuccesful findings.

That's when the rumors started coming in. Whispers of computer viruses, diseases, and failures started coming into play. Officialy, a terroristic crew member set off a series of bombs that destroyed key ships in the fleet-- communications vehicles.

But that's not what happened. When the fleet began monitoring Earth and colonial transmissions, and catching word of trying to bring back the Katana and Shuriken fleets to back up their navy, all 500 ships made a random group jump to who-knows-where, the Katana fleet going off in a different direction as the Shuriken.

For the next 150 years, the two fleets scavenged the local star systems for supplies to support their growing numbers. The troopers that attacked the Lunar colony were scouts who had been surveying activity for months. Though the current location of the ships remains unknown to this day, there is little doubt as to what that scouting team was there for: to investigate their enemy...

-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War")

*IX*

Brisbane, Australia

Superhighway 21, .63 Miles from Launch Pads

December 24, 2806, 3:27 A.M.

Hunter opens a car door as Walker dives into a pickup truck. Hunter readies his rifle's last bullet, takes aim at the core, and pulls the trigger. The explosion of the fuel truck, along with the power core and shotgun shells, produces a slow, powerful explosion, disintegrating anything within thirty feet, destroying the bridge and any chance the undead creatures on the other side have to attack the brothers.

But that doesn't really matter, because they might not need to...

* * *

Two clicks, the crack of a rifle, and a deafening explosion.

"Walker! It's safe..." Hunter says,

Walker, still shaking from the blast, stammers out "Yeah, flinkin' right!!"

"Come on, let's go. Get out of that truck."

"O-kay, just a sec-- Hunter, your arm!"

With a puzzled look on his face, Hunter turns his left arm into view, revealing a large gash up the bicep extensor. Surprisingly, there was little blood. From what Hunter could see, in fine print, there were the words "Petrol Company" scrawled on the piece. Shrapnel must've dug into Hunter's suit as he turned into his cover. The metal must have been hot enough to cauterize the wound-- instantly.

After letting out a deep-throated scream, Hunter shakingly says, "Okay, okay. Walker, hurry and flip down that black and yellow switch on my back. We've got thirty seconds to seal my suit before I'm well, you know. Gimme that patch..."

Walker flicks that switch, and a red twirling light starts flashing on Hunter's helmet. Suddenly, Hunter collapses on the ground, limbs tightly locked in a spread-eagle fashion. Then, joints started freeing up. First the knees, then the ankles and hips, and eventually all his joints except his left elbow, shoulder, and neck.

"What did that do?" Walker asks as Hunter stands up,

"Sealant," Hunter says, drawing his revolver, "Standard equipment on my environment protection suit. It clamps down hard on the two closest bodily joints around any deep cut or hole in the suit. Ours were designed primarily for space, meaning they'd normally trigger if the suit's pressure dropped below a certain point, reason being why you had to flick that switch on my suit. My arm is all stiff because of the joint clamps. Come on, we're almost there, the clamp's cutting off my circulation."

As they walk, Hunter re-holsters his pistol long enough to tape the hole in his arm shut.

When the boys notice the nose cone of a British rendezvous shuttle, they notice the facility is awful dark for a mass-launch being only hours away...

Port Aldrin, Luna

(Exact Location Unavailable)

December 24, 2806, 4:14 A.M.

Lieutenant Cruz is lying on her stomach, watching two (very) young men inching down the hallway away from her, two men who shouldn't exist!

"Holy--, hey, does that seem familiar?" Grace whispers to herself, making sure the microphone was off, "I think I've seen that before!"

As she starts shuffling for her pistol, one of the troopers does a lightning-fast about face, snapping around and firing his railgun wildly down the hall, the clattering metal shards whizzing inches above the air reserve on Grace's suit.

In an anger infused shout, the other scout shouts in full Chinese "Stop that shooting! Save [your] ammunition, you only have [unavailable, probability number] rounds left! Do that again, and [personal reference] strip your shields with my plasma gun!"

Damn, Grace thought as she read the text, they have shields! I'll only get one chance at that backpack...

Sliding very slowly along the ground, Grace reaches for her pistol, flipping a switch to "gamma rays"-- a setting that would drain the power cell in one shot-- and easily brings herself to a firing position. Raising the gun's sights on the plasma gun's power reserve, she pulls the trigger.

That's when Grace's already overtaxed mind blew. In the mere microseconds it took for the long, deadly beam to fly fifty feet from Grace's pistol to the Katana/Shuriken Fleet scouts, the empty cell pops out of the pistol's grip, the bright yellow-green beam catches the attention of the scouts, who react by opening fire in Grace's general direction. The first trooper's railgun jams after a few shots, and the second one, whom Grace intended to blow his backpack up, twists around beginning to let off a stream of superhot plasma, but is interrupted when he takes the full brunt of the beam, shorting out his shields, and ricocheting to the second trooper, giving Grace enough time to reload, switch to lasers, and promptly land two beams into each man's chest.

Being careful not to step in molten metal from the plasma stream, Grace walks over and wields the railgun, testing its weight. It had heft, but for an industrial-machine-looking weapon, it was designed for maneuverability.

Yeah, this'll do. Grace thinks, grabbing an extra magazine from the dead soldier,

* * *

After several weeks of excruciating travel, Hunter and Walker finally approach the main airlock to the launch pads of Great Britain's Northern Madagascar bunker.

"Power's out." Walker disappointedly said, "Great. Nearly three months of travel, and we can't get in."

"Now you just hush. There's got to be another way in." Hunter snaps back,

Cautiously turning their searchlights on, the boys draw their revolvers and march about the area, looking around for another way into the facility.

"Ho! Over here!" Hunter shouts, his pistol in his locked-up left arm for a steady shooting platform,

Typical behavior of Hunter Hayes, to use a crutch as a tool rather than an excuse... Anyways, he discovered a way into the facility-- the air ducts!

(40 MINUTES LATER...)

"Okay, scanners show the air's clean. Let's take off our suits." Hunter says, clamoring out the narrow vent,

Walker quickly strips off his clothes, but Hunter, with his locked arm, barely manages to open his visor.

"Wait, Walker! Help me with this..." Hunter yells as Walker draws his gun and bolts down the hallway, though he does eventually come back.

Remembering the sight from several hours earlier, Walker first thinks and worriedly says, "But what about the shrapnel?"

"That's another problem," Hunter reassuringly says, "First off, the batteries on my suit are almost dead, so I'll have trouble moving and breathing if I just leave it on. Plus, (as he cuts a glove off with his knife) see how white my hand is? I need to un-clamp my arm."

After some horrid thoughts about what would happen if they missed the launch (which by now seems to not be happening), Hunter quickly thinks of what to do.

"Cut off all power on my suit, then dislocate my shoulder."

"What was that last part?!" Walker says in surprise,

"You heard me," Hunter says, "The clamp on my arm needs power. Cut it off, and it can't press any harder. But there's still the pressure that's already been applied. Dislocating my shoulder will give me flexibility enough to slip out of my suit, albeit very painfully."

"Okay... And what of the metal shard buried in your arm? There's still that matter when you're out of the suit."

"Once again, that's another problem."

Walker turns a large, stiff dial on his brother's back, and Hunter does the rest. Hisses, jets of steam and hydraulic fluid, and dying whines erupt from the suit as it sings its death song.

With the suit dead, a sign of slight relief shows on Hunter's face, followed by one of anticipation. Sarcastically asking his brother for a bullet to bite, he sprints down the hallway as hard as he can to the best of his ability, and then slams his stiff arm into a protruding corner.

Up the hallway after hearing the crash, Walker says "Are you alright, did it work?"

"NEEEEEAAAUGH!!!" Hunter shouts out, annoyed,

As he stands back up, Hunter's left arm is bent awkwardly in front of his chest. Walker swiftly assists him in removing the suit.

Shortly after all the sharp cries of pain in slipping the apparently broken arm out of the suit, some distant moans and shuffling of feet begin growing steadily louder and louder...

Making a sling out of his shirt, Hunter draws his pistol and motions for Walker to remove the lights from his now-useless helmet.

"How are we on ammunition?" he whispers,

"How much in your gun?" Walker responds,

With only a dozen bullets between them, the Hayes brothers turn on their flashlights and slowly slink towards whatever spaceworthy vehicle they come to.

Turns out the zombies were way closer than the brothers first thought (Must've been the acoustics of the bunker, nobody has known the truth since 2949), causing a jumpy Hunter to empty his six bullets Spaghetti-Western style (a shooting fashion of holding the trigger and repeatedly flipping the hammer back) when a trio of undead began rushing the boys. Hunter shot while Walker ran. That's when they hit the doors.

With power to the heavy lead-lined door almost nonexistent save an indicator light saying "low power", the brothers Hayes at first attempted to open the door by force, an impossible task with Hunter's broken arm. Then Hunter tried using the power cell from his torch to provide just enough juice to scamper under the door, assuming they can open it. It would've been much easier if Walker didn't have to hold off twenty some-odd zombies with a rapidly dwindling fistful of pistol bullets!

Anyways, by the time Walker resorted to beating the creatures back with the butt of his revolver, the circuits of the door used the last volts of energy in the flashlight's battery to partially open up. The door only opened eight inches, but it was enough for the boys to crawl under. When the writhing mass of undead zombies bumped the battery out of socket, the door hit the floor with a satisfying thud.

The brothers turn around, and through the window in front of them, a massive orange tank geometrically wrapped in six- no, eight missile-like rocket engines. Atop the last sixty of this two-hundred-foot structure, a small innocent freighter ship balances.

"Let's go." Hunter bravely says,

X

Port Aldrin, Luna

(Exact Location Unavailable)

December 24, 2806, 9:19 A.M.

Grace was quietly walking through the dark hall, noting dead soldiers of both Lunar and Katana/Shuriken ranking.

Must've been a hell of a fight, Grace thinks, they even broke out one of the grenade launchers!

Taking sight of the M-79 grenade launcher, an old but formidable weapon, Grace plucks it from the hands of a corporal, along with a bag with another railgun magazine, when a small blue light on the helmet of the corporal's suit began blinking.

"Self destruct mechanism! Gotta run!" Grace screams,

When she began running away, suddenly Grace was frozen. A white light from the inside of her suit flashed on, forming into a sort of scanning grid on her face. Thinking this is the end, Grace shuts her eyes. Only she couldn't! The scanning light somehow froze her! Eventually, the white light grew brighter and brighter, until she couldn't see. Then a rapid chirping sound rang in Grace's ears. Then finally, the light cut off, and when Grace uncontrollably collapsed, she read the message that filled her suit visor:

ARE YOU LIEUTENANT FIRST CLASS

GRACE AUGUSTINE CRUZ

Y/N?

Reading the message and noticing a bar start to fill when Grace hovered over the "Y/N" part, she fixed her gaze on "Y" for about three seconds, and a video feed from several hours ago showing that corporal hipfiring Grace's newfound grenade launcher and a machinegun, and the man said:

"Grace, I'm not sure if you even get this, but-KITCHENS! Where's that mortar I need?!-- I put you in your pod because you are our only 'necessary' asset here. I knocked you out with that powder in your food because I knew you wouldn't get in there otherwise. There's a messenger fighter at the Houston Center dock. Take it and fly to Kepler, humanity can forget about the moon once again."

Thinking about how she could possibly get to Houston on forty-five minutes of oxygen, Grace is suddenly met by a Shuriken banzai jumper, who is promptly dealt with through the lieutenant's railgun. Hundreds of long metal shards flared explosively against the boy's shields, knocking him off his feet.

But, when Grace's weapon jammed, he began coming back up…

"Crap! Too close for the grenade launcher…" She mumbled under her breath,

In a move even she could not believe she did, Grace dropped her gun, and as the Shuriken boy raised his weapon, charged at him with her pistol. She pulled her handgun out oddly, and when she almost dropped it, she snatched it into her other hand by the barrel, and drove the butt into the banzai's visor, shattering it like a baseball to a front window.

In the seconds that followed, Grace reclaimed her pistol. For a brief moment, she heard a faint whoosh of air carrying an even fainter scream…

The phrase "(processing) WHAT THE FU-(unavailable)!!" showed up on Grace's translator as she watched the young boy fall one last time.

At the sight of the unfamiliar troop transport, Grace forgets about the railgun, tests the heft of the banzai's submachine gun, and promptly fades into darkness.

* * *

Brisbane, Australia

British Launch Pad Heathrow-447

December 24, 2806, 11:00 A.M.

Hunter and Walker have almost made it off Planet Earth, but there is a problem. There are over four thousand undead creatures busting down the doors trying to eat them! Whenever the first gate fell, the boys stripped off their packs and hurriedly ran up the spire of stairs leading to the rocket, zombie horde in pursuit.

About halfway up the stairwell, Hunter trips, and some of the undead grab hold of his legs, pulling him down with them. Walker sees this, and wields a large fire extinguisher. Shouting for his brother to hold his breath, Walker lets loose a steady stream of liquid carbon dioxide, allowing Hunter to kick away and shatter the frozen forms of his captors. Walker chunked the empty can downstairs, and the brothers lit out for the shuttle.

Winded and with the monsters close behind, the boys approach this beautiful sight for sore eyes, the spacecraft that could be their last chance off the dying rock known as Earth.

After closing the small door behind them, Walker excitedly says, "There's the ship, c'mon! Let's get aboard!" while trying to cross the tunnel-bridge to the shuttle. Taking tight hold of his brother's shirt collar, Hunter says:

"Wait, WAIT! See those light shafts? The hallway isn't airtight. Hold on, (*zap) OW! Yep, a magnetic field. That's what's keeping us safe. If we try to go through it, assuming the voltage doesn't fry us, we'd have to hold our breaths for quite a stretch if we want to climb onto the ship uninfected."

When they heard scratches, clangs and moans at the door, the brothers Hayes decided to take their chances. Quickly taking in deep breaths, the boys darted across the hall, enduring the painful static shocks of the first magnetic field, then the second shaft after a sixty-some-odd foot sprint.

Gritting his teeth when shrapnel in his arm stuck to the field generators, Hunter turned and saw the bulkhead at the other end of the hallway was creaking open!

"Walker! You didn't shut the friggin' DOOR all the way!" Hunter said, yanking his arm free,

As the writhing mass of zombies flowed across the narrow corridor, it appeared to almost snag on the first magnetic field generator, shorting it out.

"Get in!!" Walker cried from the ship's hatch,

The creatures began crawling through the second field when Hunter finally clamored inside. One wild zombie broke from the masses and was running their way, but Walker, throwing his knife, scored a one-in-a-million shot into the creature's head, bringing his charge to a halt. The boys pull the door shut; seal it tight, and dash up to she ship's bridge.

"And just how can we expect to fly this?" Hunter sarcastically says at the sight of the simple controls: Two awkward-looking joysticks, a throttle lever, and an array of a dozen buttons.

"That's the one!" He brightly says, finding a button that says, "launch". Hunter promptly smacks it, causing a computer to ask a question:

SORRY, YOU HAVE NOT SPECIFIED YOUR LAUNCH TYPE.

PLEASE SELECT:

1. FREIGHTER LAUNCH

2. FIGHTER LAUNCH

3. MASTER LAUNCH

Strapping into his seat, Hunter selects "freighter launch" and randomly selects a ship from a long list. Second later, a ship not far from their location leaves the pad.

"Hunter, HURRY!" Walker screams as he hears scratches and bellowing moans inch their way up the hull,

Hunter must've launched ten more ships by the time one of the demonic monsters made it to the bridge, clawing away at the thick glass,

The sight was met with a loud shriek from Walker, and a "screw this" from Hunter, who slapped "master launch" on the computer's keypad,

From below the ship, eight massive rockets roar to life in an ear-splitting crack, shattering windows all around the launch pad. When the docking clamps released, the shuttle rose out of the launch tube, incinerating all the floors of the viewing decks, and with it, the last of the undead in the facility, save the one clinging for its half-life on the nose of the starship.

The hazy sky faded from a sickening blue-green to a jet black.Using an automated flight path, Walker and Hunter's cruiser joined the formation of dozens of other cargo ships, and hundreds of fighters already clustered above Earth.

"Let's lose the extra weight." Hunter said, throwing a lever that dropped the now-empty fuel tank and booster rockets,

"Now that we're up here, just what will we do about your arm?" Walker asks, pointing out the break and the shrapnel wound,

"I dunno. The ship must have a medical bay or something, let's take a look."

"WAIT! Hang on,"

Walker overrides the flight controls of the ship so that it won't influence the rest of the fleet, and throws the reverse boosters, causing the zombie-who began eating the airtight seal, to shoot off into oblivion.

With their ship completely motionless, the Hayes brothers explore their salvational craft, searching for a medical ward for Hunter's arm. They eventually do, but as Hunter settles into the infirmary stasis booth, Walker calls from the bridge:

"Hunter! Take a look at the fleet! Now, hurry!"

Snapping out of the oncoming anesthesia, Hunter swaggers up to the bridge, where out of about 990 ships and fighters, each individual one was disappearing with missiles that were being fired from a Lunar reconnaissance fleet!

"Walker, you know how to operate that gun, right?" Hunter asks, planning,

"I… think so, why can't you?" Walker responds,

"Uh, my ARM?"

Walker scrambles up a ladder to what looks like a large machinegun, sits in a seat, strapping in and swiveling around a turret. Nervously, he pulls the two triggers, sending a crimson red beam off into space. When he figured out how the holographic targeting system works, Walker turned his gun as far as it could, just barely missing the capability of opening fire at one of the ships.

"Hunter, Can you turn the ship? I can't aim!" he suavely asks over the intercom,

"Gimme a second, I'm trying to-Missile lock! Hold on a moment, I'm about to make the ship do an FTL jump!" Hunter hollers back,

"Can't I just shoot it down?"

"Do that! Electronic warfare's disabled the navigation systems!"

Walker does so, reducing the rocket to smoldering ash. However, as if to say "two can play at that game", several more missiles pop into view…

* * *

Houston Center, Luna

Situation Control Room

December 24, 2806, 3:42 P.M.

Facing suffocation and explosive decompression multiple times, Grace borrows a battlesuit from another dead corpse, and swaps suits inside an oxygen pod.

"Much better," she says to herself, "Now I won't feel so heavy, and I can breathe!"

Though she had plenty of oxygen, Grace took some reserve tanks from the pod, started up her battlesuit motors, and began trudging across the lunar landscape.

(1 HOUR LATER…)

Seeing that her suit's batteries were about to die, Grace began striding across the ground in big, sixty-foot bounds. On the dark side of the moon, where the Houston facility is located, Grace can see Lunar gunships taking off and landing all about Houston's docks.

Feeling a strange shift in her inner ear, Grace picks up a gravity field of a Katana/Shuriken gunship headed towards the base. Diving behind a boulder, Grace peppers the passing ship with grenades from her semiautomatic launcher, bringing the ship down almost a quarter mile away from Grace.

To give her suit a temporary boost, Grace cuts off her shields and diverts the extra juice to her motors. That doesn't last long. She sprints hard in ninety-foot bounds for about a minute, until the batteries in her suit finally die with a contested whine. The suit brought out an emergency solar panel to charge the batteries, but in the lack of sunlight, Grace simply ripped the extra bulk off.

Now is where Grace started struggling. Old rover and boot tracks from hundred-year-old construction projects came into view, being stirred up by a landing shuttlecraft as Grace's dying heads-up display blackened…

"Grace! Glad you're alive, you look famished, have a carrot!" An anxious tech said as they walked into the room,

"Why does everybody seem worried? I know about the Asian's lost fleets and all, but why?" Grace asked, stumbling to a desk,

"We need to evacuate. Our mission to kill Earth has gone swell, except for the hundreds and hundreds of starships that took off two hours ago! Take this, and take out as many ships as you can before the general finds out!"

Taking the targeting computer from the tech's hands, Grace sarcastically says: If I know General Hapes well, he already knows. Now how do you work this thing?!"

Lunar soldiers are always for simplicity. The device in Grace's hands is simply a ten-inch screen, a knob, button, and switch to choose a ship to fire from. The screen and audio outputs on the device weren't working, so it was patched into the amphitheatre screen, not for theatrics, but it's the only screen available. Grace starts at a capital ship in front of the Brits, and destroys twenty ships with a nuclear bomb.

"Easy on the nukes," an officer said, "We're saving those for the Coda Banda bombing runs next week."

With an affirmative glance and a flick of the switch, Grace swaps missile types and begins carefully bringing down ship after ship.

"Kind of odd how none of them are shooting back, eh?" she says, firing another rocket,

No sooner she says that, th





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