Second Reclamation Territory
Amaranthe, 2338 CE
– Ten Years Ago
Destroy. Reclaim. Rebuild. Control.
Destroy. Reclaim. Rebuild. Control.
Over and over and over again, the mantra repeats inside her head. Steel toed military boots stand their ground in half an inch of water, the heels embossed with a titanium plate that displays the government’s seal of power—an Omega.
The Omega Administration.
Inside a derelict building, rain water pours in from the open roof, slowly flooding the crumbling remains of a long dead human civilization.
As miniature waves lap at the edges of the military boots, they catch upon the light of a fallen flashlight. Swirls of deep merlot mingle with the clear rainwater, and red tendrils of spilled blood pool around her feet. Something small and round, caught in the gravitational flow of the water, bounces on the surface, spinning and tumbling toward the military boots. Seconds before impact, the toe of the right boot rises up and captures the tiny ball gently beneath it.
Detached from its former owner, the human-sized eyeball—complete with a pink tail of optic nerve and muscle attachments—gleams bright against the moonlight that’s shining down from above.
A bright violet iris, crushed beneath the military boot.
Exploding eyeball fluid joins the water-blood soup mix.
A silver-plated, custom engraved HK USP handgun is removed from its holster and taken in the right hand of a seasoned Hunter. Her name, rank and Division are embroidered over the chest of her Kevlar vest, above the Omega emblems.
Commander Ella Cross.
Tall and strong, her long blonde hair is always pulled back into a pony tail. She’s in her mid-twenties, and would be captivatingly beautiful if her form were not perennially hidden beneath a soldier’s uniform. Her face, smeared with blood and dirt, is pleasingly symmetrical, and her large, silver eyes abound with feeling; so full of the emotions she too often tries to hide.
Oblivious to the rain, despite being soaked through, she keeps her focus and raises the gun silently upon her enemy.
A skeletal frame that was—many centuries ago—human, is now deformed and quadrupedal. Opposable thumbs have become redundant dew claws, and delicate, pink human skin has been replaced by a thick, grey, leathery sack of flesh. Enraged by the loss of an eye, this particular Chimera digs its long talons into the floorboards so deeply that one of the talons breaks away from the nail bed, tearing through the nail matrix, causing instant and profuse bleeding.
Its fight or flight response triggered, muscle attachments along the creature’s thoracic spine begin to contract. Signaling to an opponent that an attack is imminent, this contraction results in the horripilation of spinal erectile tissue: several engorged bumps, swelling with blood.
Swaying its hindquarters from side to side, the Chimera swaggers—trying to make itself appear bigger. Deep inside its throat, a low rumble begins. Baring its teeth and raising its nose high into the air, the Chimera shows off its strength. Long canines protrude from the maxilla, torn pieces of flesh from its last meal still clinging to the gum line.
Remnants of the Chimera’s human ancestry are few and far between. Human ears sit awkwardly on the side of its head. A human nose has adapted poorly to such a drastic change in cranial anatomy, and appears stretched and pig-like. Only the eyes—or eye, in this case—retain some semblance of humanity. The shape and size remain similar to humans, but the color is distinct and unusual.
The Chimera looks up at Commander Ella Cross—or Silver, as she prefers—and she waits with her weapon poised. Wrapped tightly around her wrist, a pair of military dog tags jangle together.
Stamped ‘DECEASED’, they belong to Jonathan Cross.
Done posturing, the Chimera turns in Silver’s direction and takes a step forward.
She fires, but … nothing.
Sensing weakness, the Chimera quickens its approach but slips on the wet floor. Unable to withstand the pressure of the animal’s colossal weight slamming down against it with full force, the floor gives way.
Not soon enough.
The Chimera buries its talons into Silver’s ankle.
Dragging her down with it, they both tumble into the floor below, the empty gun bouncing away into the shadows. Landing flat on her back, Silver struggles to breathe. Water pours down from above and temporarily blinds her. She rolls over onto her hands and knees, trying to get a visual on the Chimera.
Out of her periphery, Silver sees the animal fall—the gunshot obliterating its other eye. Following the trajectory of the shot, she finds Alexander King.
Sitting in an old rocking chair with a cigarette between his lips, reading a vintage 2013 CE newspaper he found on the floor, he exudes the calm, trained demeanor of an experienced soldier. Tall, with dark hair and soft eyes, he’s the locker room pin-up for every female Cadet in the Hunter Division training Academy. He has the kind of arms you feel safe in, no matter where you are, and the experienced hands that always know just how to touch.
A few years older than Silver, he has a more practiced patience about him. His heart rate doesn’t exceed seventy-five steady beats per minute, despite the war going on around them. Barely looking up from the newspaper, he sets his gun down on the arm of the chair.
“That’s fifteen to me.”
Silver cracks a smile, hauling herself up off the floor and dusting herself down, stepping out of the way of the rain. “It’s still early.” She finds her gun and reloads it, nodding toward the newspaper in his lap. “Brushing up on your human history?”
“Don’t you care at all about how we got here?”
Silver shakes her head. “I care about getting us out.”
Alex folds up the paper—The New York Times—and tosses it aside. The headline story reads: ‘End is Nigh: Chimera Virus Breaks Loose’. It tells of a global terror attack—a catastrophe of epic proportions. During an oil crisis, several major political organizations pooled their resources and deployed a biological weapon, intended to wipe out all opposition to their claim on a newly discovered oil pocket in Russia.
Unfortunately, Russia fought back with unprecedented force and the war turned nuclear. In the midst of their retaliation, the biological weapon—a blood borne pathogen—was vaporized.
A viral strain of purposefully engineered synthetic DNA.
It became airborne.
Exposure meant transformation.
Humans became Chimera.
On the back page, a small footnote documents the extinction of polar bears.
Silver wanders across the room to the nearest window and looks out over the city. Something that was previously known as New York City is now a fragile shell of Old World human civilization, smothered in fire and echoing with the war cries of the Hunter Division.
“Human greed destroyed the Old World centuries ago.” Silver’s jaw tightens. “We fight for the New World now.”
In the distance, the fortifications dividing this reclamation territory, Old World Queens, from an area of human occupation in Old World Brooklyn can be seen protruding above the skyline. Within those fortifications, humans are safe.
Safe inside the Sentinel District: a part of the first reclaimed human city.
She watches, stone cold, as a Hunter on the street below dispatches a Chimera with his bare hands.
“Destroy. Reclaim. Rebuild. Control,” she repeats.
***Content advisory: Contains graphic language and violence.***
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Genre – Dystopian Sci-Fi
Rating – 18+
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