An End To All You Know (Summer 2019), Fiction, Novels

An End To All You Know: Chapter 11

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Chapter 11: The Clone

We trekked for days and days, and days, more.  Heading in one orientation, southeast.  I tried my best to save faith; assured the conclusion would be better.  A thought, since I gave up the Almighter, glided into my skull, extending a bitter poison to rush through my body.  I doubted what exactly was I working towards.  Am I actually going to destroy Azergile.  Me, I don’t even know what he looks like, but I roam in this filth and for what?  What was this nightmare I insisted on myself?

The desert ruins shifted to a further sharp landscape.  Lines of metal spears stood out of the ground, and now we settled before a bizarre sight. That meaty flesh that flourished everywhere had overwhelmed this place as well.  Its fibrous turmored grip upon all that it felt.  Bodies laid about, as still as they were in an alarm.  Tangled as muscle fiber.  Twitching and wailing and in misery.  It startled me and I remained close to Velora, who didn’t seem troubled at all by them.

I couldn’t stand it any longer, I had to ask.  Their mouths etched in dismay.  They looked as though they were watching… like they were the living dead. “Velora, are they still alive?”

“Yes.” she replied in such a matter-of-fact expression.

On the drudgery, as if buried there, I glanced upon a man reaching out at me.  All he created was a beast like whine, calling out, and he moved towards me.  Held in the meat mass, I felt sorrowful for him.  His frame, weak, atrophied by degeneration; a withered skeleton, barely competent to grasp for me.  At the same moment, I was glad he was in that wicked dungeon.  Sadly, his mind faded into nothing further than a monster’s.  Chips with programmed responses.  I mistrust he was sentient… then again… maybe I was just comforting myself.

We happened upon an enormous pit.  It could devour the world.  In its depth a tone was erupting, howling, cruelty.  Whatever was down inside the gloom of the fleshy chasm, I did not want to know.  

“This is a horrible place.” I spoke.

“Its a former battlefield.” Velora commented.  “Long dead things wander.  This is the nano machines seeking to repair the world.”

I peered around at the arbitrary land of death around me.  “Repair, this is cruel.  Why would they produce this?”

“They are puzzled. Shredded flesh, blood and guts.  All that was in the soil here.  So they make flesh were there should be nothing.”

“You mean, where they find blood they think its supposed to be a body.”

“Not just anyone.  The person who spilled it.  However, there was so much blood spilled here it carried out this.”  Velora turns towards me.  “Or perhaps maybe its there sick joke.” Yeah right, a sick joke, she added.  Sure, why not?  The world was already wiped out. Why not make it worse?  Still, that did nothing to reassure my concern of what was in those pits. I settled against asking Velora.  She went on, “Its a battle field… what horrors do you consider the machine is working to revitalize.  Its a memory.  A vision of war and it illustrates the aspirations of everyone here.  To execute the enemy.  Its as if time had ceased for them.  They are now the specters of a land they ravaged.  Every breathing inch of this place will eternally be the misery they have enshrined themselves in.”

As we crossed through the alien flesh wilderness, I saw strange fauna like timbers.  Though there were more like split nerves standing tall; leafless.  Blood dripped off them like sap. They moved slightly when you walked near them.  Shrunk down as if in agony.  A red, black sky greeted us.  It must be morning, I thought.  Its rusty haze gleaming down.

I was struck on the rear with a blow as I come stumbling to the ground.  A considerable weight crushed me into the bloodstained soil as I let out a shriek.  Immediately my mouth enclosed by a firm restraint.  “Prina, quiet.” Velora whispers in my ear.  My blood went cold as she delivered the words.  My face against the gory flesh as Velora held me to the ground.  I can hardly see what is directly in front of my eyes, meat that stretched for miles, the base of one of those terrors that simulates a tree, and nothing more.

A light comes over the scenery, radiating down.  Drifting, gradually, over everything.  It swings as though swimming with lazy tail fin like motions.  Velora’s hoove on my back lifts as the light passes by.  When I picked up myself, my mouth fell.  Something in the open flying.  Hard shells and slither silky tentacles, an exceedingly large female human face, floating overhead.  It is… spectacular.  I peered at Velora with my feeble jawed and bewildered.  “Avoid it.  That is one of the watchers.”

“Watchers?” I asked.

“The watchers are Azergile’s henchmen.  They observe everything, and report to him.”

“Then we must be close.”

Velora laughs.  “No. They are all over the world.  They deliver to him through the air.  You are no closer to Azergile than you are to the moon.”

My heart plunged.  My journey was not showing up to its end, but rather just beginning.  A quick fear clutched me.  If I had to, no, I cannot think about such matters. “Then what is it searching for.” Velora turns aside, walking with her four mighty limbs.  “Velora… what is it looking for.”

“You.” she answered so plainly.  “And I don’t want to be here if it finds you.”

We sat down at an expanse with open earthy ground hemmed in by a slight portion of gore. It was macabre in its overall appearance.  Velora had cleaned the little fragments of flesh off her leg armor.  What was I doing?  Well, I spent my time lying down in an area clean of the lumpy coils that were around.  There was a singular tree in the distance.  I marveled at how long it had been there, all the things it saw. Perhaps it was not even awake.  Just an empty skeleton, rising tall, a remembrance of what once was.

“So, everything goes back to normal after we make it to Azergile?” I speculated aloud.

Velora looks at me with a smile.  “No.  Your mission is to kill the world, right?  Everything will be dead once you spend that precious liquid of yours.”

I never honestly thought about what specifically would result from such actions. “Dead! What?”

“You didn’t know.  You will kill Azergile and thus the world will die.  You are an angel of death.  A judgment on the earth.” Everything would die because of me.  What right did I have to kill everything?

I looked around at the gasping grounds.  It quivered.  The tubes pulsing with life.  Everything would perish; I was fine with that, and it startled me I was ok with that bleak thought.

“Whrump whrump whrump!!!” resounds as a projectile hits Velora in the shoulder.  She erupted immediately.  Flying to the ground, I managed my best to cover.  “Away!” was the only thought I had. “I have to get away.” The gun repeated its wail, “Whrump!”

I look up to see where Velora had moved to.  In my confusion, I had lost her.  Laying on the ground, I made myself as small as a target as I could.  When the gun roared, I swung towards the sound.  By the tree there is a guy with a sub-machine pistol.  “Run you moron!” He thunders.  

I followed the muzzle flash and flare and gleam again, Velora meanwhile was taking blow after impact from this stranger clad in brown leather military fatigues. Still, she assaulted him, even though he rushed with extraordinary quickness.  His running was different, though.  It was improper and distorted for a human.  His legs were backward. At least at the initial glance, that is what I saw.  I recognized how slim they were, hardware.  Not human, but more avian.  “Idiot!  Run!” he shrieked repeatedly.

Why is he telling me to run?  Hooves beating the ground, in savage bursts Velora came surging forward with a fairly impressive speed herself; bounding on all fours, her wings tucking tightly at her sides.  And like that, she was upon the astonished soldier with a deft cut from her blade arm.  A tout scream rumbled out of her throat.  Her slash nearly arrived at the fellow.  He rebounded just as the blade missed him.  “Damn it!  Run!”

He was struggling to save me.  That can’t be.  I played the words in my head again and again.  My mouth dropped, once the understanding became clear.  But he shot Velora “Oh my! Stop!” I desperately screamed.

The man seizes his shoulder just in time as Velora retched a grip on his chest.  She rose him into the air as he carried out a stabbing gesture.  Velora barked and slammed him on the ground.  With his knife sank into her bosom the guy keeps stabbing at Velora, snapping his limbs as she is rent open, blood gushing like rapids.  “Stop, damn it!  Stop!” I tearfully scream.  The man shudders, gripping the knife against Velora’s throat as she stares at him on the ground with eyes of fire.  “Please, stop fighting.”

“Prina, look away.”  I observed as the familiar tethers from before burst from Velora’s spine.

I rushed as swiftly as I could.  “Please!  Velora!” I slid and went down on the bleeding soil.  Dirtied with juice, I get back up.  “He’s trying to defend me.” 

With unsympathetic eyes Velora looks at the man whose grit his teeth together tightly. “Is this true.” the man must have suffered something in Velora’s face shape or something because his furious expression shifted to one of sheer fright.  “Well, is it?”

“Bite me, bitch.”  Velora releases him, rising to her full stature.  The man strives to his feet, alarmed.  “What the hell are you two doing together?” He wasted no time in witticisms.  Instead, he pointed the pistol at me.  I was shaky and hesitant to say the least.

“Please sir, put down the gun. I will explain.” I suggested as tears spilled down my lips under my mask.

He gave me a slight side eye before doing as I requested.  “Yeah, fine, we can both walk away ok choches.  I’m not looking to die today.”

“Ok, Velora, are you ok?” my heart pounded. There was so much blood.  I could not concentrate on that. He is still unsafe.

“I’ll be fine.” she growled even her abdomen was eviscerated.  I could see her intestines moving.  The sight was ghastly, I must about half a minute till I broke back to my senses.  

I gulped hard, “This Velora, my nickname is Prina.  We are travelers. Who are you?”

The expression he threw at me was like none I had ever received. “Your traveling with a devil.”

“I am her caretaker.” Velora said with a mention of satisfaction in her tone.

“Caretaker! Hah, oh man.  I have got to sit down.  You two are crazy being out here on your own.” The man squatted down on the ground where he was.  “What the hell are you two doing out here, anyway.  Its the fricken middle of deadpan.”  He draws a cigarette from his chest pocket and lights it up by stroking his knife against it.

Looking the man over warily, I could see he was a marine.  His legs were cybernetic, his right arm was much the same.  The clothing he wore was a mishmash of scraps bundled over armor planting.  Tied around his abdomen was a skirt open in the front down the middle.  It had reinforced metal rings and plates of armor that most likely were to safeguard against gunfire.  Strange.  His metallic hand caressed his chin as he rested there in thought. He drew a slow drag from his cigarette.  “Aye, we are just traveling.” Velora sarcastically said. It was the first time I heard her use emotion.

He chuckles, releasing smoke to billow from his lips. “All right, sure, traveling.  That isn’t odd or anything.  You’re not particularly good at lying. Which is surprising, cause anything out here has been around long enough to figure that out?  Damn masker, I bet you’re an absolute freak under there.” A line of spit leaves his mouth.

“Ah, no its.  Never mind its, nothing.”  He rolls his eyes at my remark.  He suddenly clutches his knife and plucks at his teeth with it.

“You are incredibly vulgar, especially considering your life is in peril.” Velora snorts.

It was as he was decelerating slowly; he withdraws the knife from his teeth and putting it back in the holster on his shoulder.  “You don’t say there, freak.”

“Unlike Prina, I don’t have time to waste on clones like you.” This must have struck a cord with the man as his face crinkled. He sat up right pointing his fist at her.

“Who you calling a clone?  I am 100% grade triple A damn human.”

Dipping her fingers into her wound, Velora digs a round out.  “This one doesn’t know he is a replicant.  We find that funny.  Yes, yes, we do.”  She does not even study it before abandoning it to the ground.

He dives to his feet. “I am not a clone!” he yells.

Velora gives the man no reply and continues removing rounds from her.  “Why are you out here, sir?” I inquired.

He glances at Velora for a flash, then back to me.  “Yeah about that.  Crew was in a real bad,”

“He deserted his squad.”

“What hell?” he rumbles.  “It wasn’t like that.” his expression got softer, brimming with grief.  “We were out looking for survivors. We had a spider tank, real excellent weapons.  A bunch of freaking… this came and…” he stops and looks at the ground.  “I was the tail gunner.  This stopped in the middle of this place.  I could not figure out why.  I radioed but got no answer.  The biggest flaw.  Tail gunners sit in the back while head, has everyone else.  We were short one.  So I was alone.  So I poke out to see, these things, swarming our tank.  There were too many of them.  Half man, half, something else.  They ripped them apart.  I had to.” he stairs off into space for a moment.  “Now I am here, a lot later.  I lost count after the first week.  Figured it did not much matter.  I am going to die. Then I saw you, and that she devil.  Heh, never would’ve imagined she of all things was safe to be around.”

Velora laughed. “I am not safe.  You’re just not worth my time.”

“Right, whatever the hell you want to say.” he was abruptly subdued.

I wandered over to Velora and clambered up on her leg, drawing myself up to her pointed ear. She cupped me with one of her arms. I mumbled, “Velora, we can’t just leave him out here.”

“Who the hell said I want to hang around with you two? Ill be fine on my own.  The pair of you give me the creeps.” I was perplexed he overheard me, let alone understood me. He grunted, then trailed off.

No doubt to his death. “Don’t be like that.  It would be safer to travel with us.  After all, you got nowhere else to go.  At least till we find a safe place to set you off.”

“He is going to die anyway, Prina.” Velora said.  “They send them out to find survivors because that is what the machine tells them to do.  Meanwhile, there mission is for not.  There are no survivors.  So it produces a generation, fills their brains full of glory, then sends them off to die.  Rinse and repeat.”

I recalled what it was like when I first woke up in the colony. It was much the same with me. I don’t even know if anything they said was true. Only that they kept me in sweet lies the entire time. They set the entire place up as a lie… to protect me. Yet there lie was to give them false hope. Maybe at some point the mission was real… however now, well, now was different. “That’s horrible.”

The soldier was quiet.  He looked down at his mechanical feet.  Velora was right. He was delivered out here to deteriorate, and he realized it too.  “I am not a clone.” he utters.

“You merely think you are not a reproduction because they brainwashed you from birth to accept otherwise.  Truth is, you were born in a test tube.”

“Forget you.” he growls and continues his lonesome trek. “I don’t need this shit.  I got enough to worry about without some devil telling me I am a clone.”

Jumping down from Velora, I raced up to the clone, and I reached out my hand and snagged his wrist.  He froze.  Slowly he angled his head to me and I spoke to him.  “Please, stay with us.  I would like the company.”

“Hmmm, well.” he answered.  “Fine.  I am outta here though, once I find a way back to the association.”

“Fair enough.” I replied in a deflated tone.

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