6 November 2015
It started with an idea, a twisted theory in which the question was posed “What if we made life simpler to an extreme state?” One question, that spiraled into the fall of many cities. A chemical was made, it mutated the body and turned everyone into black humanoid creatures that carried out tasks assigned to them automatically, their minds in a slumber as their bodies suffered. An army, all under one corporation named Kalt Industries.
There were a select few people, though, who managed to avoid it. Usually all by differing circumstances, but nonetheless they were the only ones left normal. Those affected by the chemical, referred to as “Autos” flooded the streets, leaving those left normal to take it underground. They became known as “The Underdwellers.”
Heir, he was called. Everyone had adopted aliases now. Though their names being known wasn’t much of a danger in such a world, it was something of an extra safety precaution. The air was cold and damp, and he breathed it in as if he hadn’t for a while. He was sat atop the roof of a building, taking in the moment. A small click sounded from the comm stuck in his ear, alerting him that Pilot, his sister, wanted to talk to him.
“Hey, are you almost to Kalt Industries? Tracker’s busted, and you need to be there fast.” came her voice. He could hear the faint tapping of a keyboard. “Taking a breather.” He replied, then stood to resume his journey. “Well get going, ‘Heir to victory’, as Elijah called you.” She laughed, and he began on his way.
Traveling to Kalt Industries even simply by foot was no hard task. The city was completely deserted anyhow, and the building was large, stood right in the center of that wasteland. If a few things were to be changed, it would probably look like he was on a normal stroll, as he was walking at a fairly normal speed.
No, the harder part was getting into Kalt Industries. While he did have Pilot to walk him through the process, trying to use an old-style lock-pick trick that high schoolers would have used took a lot of time. Time which, according to Heir, was very precious. His teammates called it impatience, shook their heads at him. He called it simply highly valuing time.
After a few more minutes and a whispered comment of frustration, he did manage to unlock the door. Heir froze for a moment. Inside, the building was a bright white, sterile like a hospital save for the smoke coming out of the machinery and the black forms of Autos marching about. If it wasn’t for the mask pulled upon half of his face, the smoke would’ve probably made him choke. The sounds of gears and motors was nearly deafening.
A familiar click went off again. Pilot reminded her brother “Heir, there could be Iotas patrolling around. Could you, like, not stay so still?” Iotas. Those were robots made to monitor the Autos should anything go awry. The Underdwellers had had several run-ins with them. They were quite overly violent, really. As requested, he got moving. Didn’t give any verbal response to her, never really had to. They had found that as long as Pilot could hear him in some way it was fine.
It was soon found that the actually very clean layout of the building was a huge disadvantage for him. With the Autos and Iotas filling the building and not many places to hide, it was getting increasingly difficult for him to not just try to take down a few of them to clear the path, make it faster.
Of course, Pilot reminded him that if he were to do that there was high risk he was to be caught or that he could set off an alarm of some sort. So he tried his best to stick to any hiding place he could find. Whether it be in a vent or curled within the dusty crates that were scattered here and there.
His own patience and the Iota’s ignorance couldn’t last forever, though. He’d had the misfortune of getting himself cornered, curled up in one of the dusty crates he’d stepped into. An Iota eventually noticed something, a small thing off about one crate. Even if he was extremely good at compacting himself into things, even if he was as quiet as a mouse, there wasn’t any way to dodge an Iota’s thermal vision mode when he was only human. The Underdwellers had tried before, but alas, it was hard to get that kind of technology when you were usually imprisoned to the underground. He wasn’t even really sure how they’d managed to set up a communications link using Pilot’s system.
The hair on his neck stood up, and his breathing labored. While Pilot was telling something to him through the comm he wasn’t able to process it in that moment. He needed to do something, anything to dodge this. Strike at them before they could open the crate and strike first. The boy was sure of his plan at that moment.
Heir’s reflexes kicked in, he started moving. In one action, he kicked open the lid of the crate and jumped out, taking hold of the Iota’s “head” and using both his weight and what leverage he had to break it off. The robot’s body dropped limp onto the tile with a loud thud, like a plastic toy falling off of a child’s shelf.
With shaking hands, he dropped its head, and in his coming down from his panic, he realized what a grave mistake he’d made in breaking his cover. All around him were Iotas and AUTOs who stood witness to what just happened.
So he ran. Alarms blared, lights everywhere flashed bright red in a pattern so distracting he couldn’t see well where he was running. Iotas chased him while blasting off their guns. Jumping over crates, forcing his way through Autos and robots trying to block his way, whichever way he could progress he took it. He’d even began using his staff, swept small numbers of enemies out of his path and impaled some. With others he threw kicks, punted Autos into each other as they grabbed at him.
The alarms were most bothering, loud enough he couldn’t hear himself think, much less whatever Pilot may have been saying to him in that moment. Though he did recognize her tone, she was more than likely asking what happened.
“Broke a robot. Alarms. Chasing.” He spoke between breaths, stumbled on the last word as he flipped over an Iota. Then suddenly, the volume of his comm cranked up to a horrific degree, most likely by Pilot’s own doing. A screech from it rang through his eardrums like a person dragging their nails on a chalkboard. It was painful, but he finally caught a word. “LEFT.” The word blared through his comm, and he near happily followed the order. “STRAIGHT UP.” Came another order by which he complied. He skidded to a halt in front of a giant wooden door.
“This is the room?” He’d predicted the door to be much more armored. Something that would’ve needed a superhuman to get through. “SHOULD BE.” Such a response caused him hesitation, but looking back he was still being sought after by a faction of Iotas. Thus, all or nothing, he grabbed the handle and pushed.
Inside, the earsplitting sounds of the alarms were completely drowned out. The bright, red lights were absent from the room. The design was virtually like some rich CEO’s office. A large window adorned one wall, giving him a perfect view of the barren cityscape.
It was almost like time stopped when he stepped in. However, time seemed to move again when a figure standing on the other side of the room turned to him. The white, blank mask adorned by the man across him gave a feeling as if he was being seen right through, while he could see naught back.
“I thought I recognized such a uniform! You’re part of that group, right?” An overly cheery voice boomed from behind the mask, it nearly startled Heir. “Yeah, yeah. I remember I caught a few of your friends. They do great work now, you know. Well, I’m Henry Kalt.” Kalt seated himself into his big leather chair as if he were having the most casual conversation of his life.
The dictator’s words, his actions, everything about him made Heir’s insides feel like they were lit on fire. While for a long time he’d been able to relatively bury it, being in the actual presence of Henry Kalt was infuriating. “What? Cat got your tongue, kid? Or were you hoping I’d immediately fight you?”
The truth is, he was. At the start of the mission he’d expected to bust in and have a fist connect to his face first second. Expected a knife to come at his gut or for something, anything to happen. Not for Kalt to simply mouth off and taunt him. “Maybe.” He muttered in answer, and that was it.
“I’ll comply to your expectations then, I guess.” Kalt next took out a staff and charged at Heir. Luckily, the boy was just barely fast enough to block, else he would’ve gotten a full on face-to-staff collision. All things considered, it wouldn’t have been the worst impact in his life, but it would’ve knocked him out and led to worse. The staff grinded against Heir’s gauntlets with the force being put upon him, and he did his best to stand his ground. But of course, he was aware he was slowly, slowly slipping. Such a sudden attack left him both off-balance and in a slightly awkward stance.
“You can’t stand your ground alone, kid. I know it.” ridiculed Kalt. Henry had seen Heir’s reactions before, with enough taunting he was bound to make a mistake in his impatience and anger. The teen’s face scrunched up, the man expected him to fall just like a part of his team did.
“Alright.” Was all that was said in response. This made Henry pause for a moment, beneath his mask a confused frown crept across his face. “What do you mean, ‘Alright.’?!” Heir looked up at that blank mask then, calmly raised an eyebrow.
“Wasn’t talking to you.”
Kalt heard a sound then, turned instinctively. All of a sudden a figure burst through the large window by them. He watched almost in slow motion as they landed gracefully, leaving a trail of glass in their wake, yet no cuts were to be seen.
Upon standing, it was seen that the person was a female unknown to Kalt. In his distraction, Heir successfully shoved the man away from him, the girl thereafter bashed a vase into his mask, both breaking it and giving him a good blow to the head.
“I was never called Heir to Victory alone.” The boy stood confident above him, daunting, and Kalt’s vision faded to black.
With Henry Kalt possibly concussed with a few shards of glass in his cranium, Heir got to tying him up the best he could. Meanwhile the girl got to taking over the whole of his systems, starting with deactivating all Iotas.
“Thank you, Pilot.” Came the boy’s small voice. He was truly grateful that she’d come. “Thank me later, bro. We still have a lot to do. Like looking for a cure.” She responded, but she smiled all the same, eyes still focused on the monitor.
Then they remained with the task of finding a cure, and a possible way to make sure Kalt never got out of their hands. With a horrific lack of authority left in the world they were very unsure of how to stop him forever without harming him, for they needed information on how he developed such a catastrophic chemical. For the moment, Heir left the man tied up on a mattress. The rest of the Underdwellers who’d been left because they were out of commission later took over the entirety of Kalt’s building. They ran all of the Autos out, some unfortunately even getting injured in the process, and pushed the now deactivated Iotas into a pile outside.
Both Heir and Pilot weren’t sure how, when, or if they’d be able to restore the Autos, but for the time, they were content, and simply went to drift into a heavy sleep.