“I can’t believe it… it’s waking up. HEY! IT’S WAKING UP!”
The whirring noises were enough to reveal to him that ‘she’ was starting up. ‘Old tech’ usually made these noises… but how did it last this long? It was a rare sight to find something like this in one piece, even rarer for it to be working.
The other scavengers came to his position, some raising their makeshift guns and weapons to the ready, just in case. They were covered in tattered clothes, most bleached by the sun and covered in dirt, making them harder to spot when traveling.
The man that had yelled took several steps back, he didn’t think he’d actually manage to start up… whatever she was.
Opening its optical sensors, the Automaton began to take in a live feed of the world around her.
“Happy Valentine’s day newcom- hmm…”
The lab was not in state she was expecting… the people were not who she was expecting… things must have not gone to plan.
“It can talk?”
“What the hell is Valentine’s day?”
“Who cares, it can fucking talk. What the hell is it?”
The scavengers bickered amongst themselves as she silently watched them. She looked around, reconstructing the lab from her memories and updating its mapping according to the new changes that had occurred. Much had changed… there was now a giant hole in the ceiling for example… and a lot of mold.
“What are you?” one of the scavengers finally asked her.
Turning her attention to the group, she recording the details of each of them as she responded.
“I am the X27 Alpha model, the Automaton Lab Assistant. You may call me Xina.”
“A X twenty- what?”
“I am a robot.”
The confused expressions on their faces signified that they still did not understand… things really didn’t go as planned.
“I am a mechanical human.”
“Oh… she’s like Ricky… but less skin and more of that junk he’s got for a hand.”
“Nah, she’s made of Old Tech. A lot better than the shit Ricky’s using. You think the Old Man would want to see her.”
“I don’t think even he’ll know what she is… so yeah.”
“Hey… will you follow us to meet our boss. Old Man.”
She processed the question. Considering the state of everything around her, things were not well, but it seems the experiment was a success. Hopefully she could come into contact with her sister models, perhaps they would have more insight on what’s happened. In the meantime, it would be best to listen to this group of new humans. It seems like they haven’t degraded so far…
“I will. Please allow me a moment to test my systems first though.”
She began with her eyes. Her pupils dilating and contracting, zooming into the details of the group in front of her. Two males, two females… if body type was still consistent with her memories. Their guns were homemade airsoft guns, spring loaded. Unknown ammunition. She proceeded to move her fingers, all ten were still functional, but her left ring finger showed difficulty. Likely a jam from rust or some foreign object. She will have to attempt a maintenance check later. Moving her arms showed no signs of damage, as well as her torso. Lifting her legs yielded similar results, along with her feet. She had no toes to test.
“Check has completed. I should be capable of traveling without need of assistance.”
“Alright then. Let’s head out before anyone finds us here.”
The group made their way through what used to be the testing area and into the former hallway towards the staircase. As they walked, she decided to probe for information.
“May I ask what your names are? As well as how you ended up at this facility?”
The group turned to look at each other, still not entirely sure how to handle the situation. They shrugged and continued walking up the steps as the first in the group spoke up.
“And I’m Matt. We’re scavengers. We go around looking for supplies and anything valuable to take back to city. If we find Old Tech, we bring it the Old Man, the guy that runs the city.”
“Old Tech?” she implored.
“Y’know. The stuff you’re made out of.”
“I am made of many things… what is Old Tech?”
Brig slowed down to meet with the two before speaking.
“We don’t really know what old tech is. We just call anything from before the blast that. Anything we can’t make or recognize is Old Tech to us. Old Man might know though. He knows about a lot of stuff from before the blast.”
“Who is he?”
“Like I said, he’s our leader.” Matt responded, “He’s the one that sends us scavengers out. He says we’re the lifeblood of the city. But if anyone knows Old Tech, it’d be him.”
“… why do you call him Old Man?”
“Cause he’s old.”
Xina had never been one to express emotions, but even the group could sense a general sense of disappointment from that answer.
“No, he’s really old. My dad says that when he was a kid, Old Man was already old as dirt, and he’s still kicking. No one knows how old he is, and no one can remember his name, everyone who did is probably dead by now.”
Extended lifetime… possible side effect.
The group made it outside of the building, which was mostly in shambled. Vines had grown all over it, covering its body as it became reclaimed by nature. Jess looked up at the sky towards the sun and pointed in a direction before leading them to it.
Xina attempted to use her GPS, but it failed to connect with satellites. She wondered if they were still in orbit or if they had crashed down yet… Probably the latter. Luckily her internal magnetometer still functioned as a compass. Hopefully the world had not changed too much from the maps she had saved.
“Now… what is Valentine’s Day?” Matt asked.
“Valentine’s Day? Ah, I did greet you with it. Today is Valentine’s Day. It is a holiday that is celebrated annually on February 14th. It is recognized as the celebration of love and romance in many regions of the world, although originally it was a day to honor a saint of the same name.”
“Holiday? What the hell is that?” Gray asked.
“A holiday is a day of celebration, usually to commemorate important events or people. It was common to celebrate it before I was deactivated.”
The group paused while traversing the thick brush, contemplating the meaning of her words.
“But, you’re Old Tech. So… that was before the blast?” Matt inquired.
“I assume the blast refers to the event almost 400 years ago that led to the multiple detonation of nuclear warheads and plants throughout the world. If so, then yes. This was common before the blast.”
“Old Man is gonna love this.”
The group could hardly contain themselves, asking a myriad of questions of how the Old World was. Many of these things were arbitrary, such as what were they like, what was considered normal, how did they make such crazy things like Old Tech. Everyone was curious about this sort of knowledge, and only Old Man knew such things, but it was impossible for him to answer all their questions in his old age. He would spend days asleep and would tire quickly when he was awake. Time with him was limited, and as such difficult to come by.
Before she could answer anything, Jess turned around and shushed them.
“We can ask the questions later. We’re out in the open right now. Keep noises to a minimum.”
Everyone else immediately ended their questions. You could see that they wanted to keep asking, but something as valuable as her could not be risked getting ambushed or attacked by the wildlife… or perhaps someone else.
They continued their trek in overgrowth, heading east from the lab.
If her maps were to be trusted, they were likely headed to the former town of Edith. A small secluded town that was spared from the immediate effects of the nuclear fallout… a good testing ground.
It had been roughly 40 minutes since they left the lab, they were no doubt closing in on their destination.
Jess raised her hand, signaling everyone to a halt.
Gray instinctively raised his weapon to the ready, as the remaining two beside Xina began to look to the sides to ensure they weren’t being watched.
Xina scanned the surroundings, spotting what it was that had caused Jess to put them in high alert… it was a fruit. There was a core of a pear lying on the ground… it was still fresh. The insides had just begun to turn brown, and ants had only just begun to claim the leftovers of the fruit for their own. Someone was likely to be nearby.
It was unlikely to be an animal, they do no leave a core to waste like that.
Clearly Jess had made the same assessment, making it known to the others to be on their toes even if they had not noticed the pear just yet. They huddled together and began to move as one, eyes in all directions, doing their best to stay quiet. They only needed to make it to the borders of the city and they’d be home free.
“We are being followed.”
The group all turned to Xina who had made the announcement with her back turned to the group.
“Two unknown creatures in the treetops. Estimated 80 meters behind us.”
“Kakuen…” Matt muttered under his breath.
“We’re not close enough to make a run for it.” Gray whispered.
“Keep moving.” Jess commanded, “They may not know that we spotted them yet. We get as close as we can and run if we have to. Xina, was it? Keep us posted. Are they getting closer?”
“No, they are only keeping up with us.”
“Good. Keep moving.”
They continued on their way, trying their best to maintain the pace they had before so as to not alert the pair of kakuen behind them. Xina did not know what a kakuen was, but if their heat signatures were anything to go by, they were about the size of a man and able to traverse the treetops similar to simians. Was this a result of evolution, or mutation? How did these monkey-like creatures end up here?
There were many questions that needed answers, but they would have to wait until they reached the city before she would have a chance to find out.
“We’re almost there.” Brig whispered, noting the metallic remains of what seemed to be a pickup truck they passed.
“One is picking up speed. The other has left towards the south.” Xina warned.
Heading into a sprint, the group made their way between the trees as quickly as they could, no longer trying their best to stay silent. The kakuen behind them had also began to quicken its pace to catch up with them.
“We have roughly one minute before it catches up with us at our current pace. Please advise.”
“Keep running! Tell us if you see the other one! If she gets within 20 meters, shout and we shoot!”
They ran as fast as their legs would let them, Xina constantly looking back to measure the distance between them and their assailant.
“They are within visual range. 20-meter mark to be breached within 15 seconds.”
“Brake and Aim!”
The group slid to a stop, Xina almost crashing into Matt in the process but managing to snake around him. They all lifted their weapons in the general direction of the kakuen, adjusting it upon seeing the rustling of the leaves as it approached them.
This was new…
Swinging to a stop, the kakuen recognized that it would be shot if she approached any closer. Yes, she.
The kakuen was an animal hybrid between a monkey and a human, fur covering her arms and legs while sporting a tail as long as her thigh. This one in particular seemed similar to the rhesus macaque, her fur being a mix between brown and silver in color. The bare portions of her body were covered in rags, showing some semblance of intelligence amongst this species.
The rags did little to hide her shapely appearance… odd development.
“Any signs of the other one?” Jess asked, not taking her sights off the kakuen in front of them.
“Negative. It appears they have left, possibly to notify others if they are nearby.”
“Matt, take the first shot. Brig, second. Gray, third.”
“Got it. Firing.”
The sound of the spring releasing rang as he fired towards the kakuen. The dart heading straight for her abdomen only to be narrowly dodge by a twist of her frame as she dropped down from the branch. Brig shot soon afterwards, doing so too early as her dart lodged into the root of the tree before her target had landed onto it. Gray proceed, proving to be only a fraction of a second too late as his shot whizzed above the kakuen’s shoulder as she crouched from the landing. Jess took the final shot, landing it on the kakuen’s thigh, to which she took no notice in as she lunged towards the group.
Matt had yet to reload his weapon, and the other were trailing behind him. They would not have enough time for the dart to take effect. They began roll out of the way, to prepare themselves for the ensuing struggle… or they believed.
Upon regaining visual on the kakuen, they were greeted with the sight of a thrashing monkey-woman being held in place by her mouth as it was covered by Xina. She scratched and pounded against the mechanical woman, but to no avail, she would not release her.
“I would recommend neutralizing her now while I have her.” Xina told the group.
They were stunned at the sight of this. But quickly regained their composure. Matt, already having a dart in hand proceeded to jab it into the side of the kakuen, to which she responded with more frantic thrashing.
In a matter of seconds, her movements began to slow down, he hits becoming weaker, and her eyes closing.
She had passed out.
“She’ll be out for a few hours. You can leave her here.” Gray informed Xina.
Placing the kakuen against a tree, Xina again examined the specimen.
It was remarkably human… how did this hybrid come to be?
She squatted down to the drooling creature, and proceeded to insert her finger into her open mouth.
“Ummm… what are you doing?” Brig asked.
“Retrieving a sample for further analysis.”
No one was entirely certain what she was doing, but no one felt like questioning the one thing that made this encounter significantly easier.
“Either way…” Jess began, turning to the others, “what the hell was that? You all fucking missed. I expected Matt to miss, that’s why I let him go first! Maybe I should let him be third next time!”
No one responded, Matt simply reloaded his gun as she continued to scold them.
“Maybe we should save this for when we’re past the walls first. Xina did say the other one might have gone to notify the rest of the group, we don’t want to just wait around for them.” Gray responded.
Jess huffed, but agreed.
She was obviously annoyed by her team’s poor performance… but she would have to save that for later.
“C’mon. We’re nearly at the gates…”
The group made haste, reaching the gravel road that led to the city gates.
The walls made of stone and wood seemed reminiscent of the stories of the middle ages, the watchtowers with guards keeping a keen eye on their surroundings. The barb wire almost ruined the aesthetic, but it was function over form.
As they made their way to the gate, a guard yelled to them.
“STOP! WHAT’S THE CODE!?”
“MOON SUN GRASS MOON!” yelled Matt.
“WHAT’S THAT THING YOU GOT THERE? IT AIN’T HUMAN!”
“IT’S OLD TECH. WE GOTTA BRING IT TO THE OLD MAN TO SEE IT!”
The guards conversed amongst themselves, but soon began to open the gates.
“Well Xina,” Matt began, “Welcome to the city of Eden.”
Things have changed…
Journal Entry 1 Complete