Scrappers Angie and Ruggy have been sent by their operator to a location deep within The Lost. This is no ordinary Scrapper mission. The two came across a crashed starship. Is it one of the deadly Harvesters or something else entirely?
Scrappers Part II continues August’s flash fiction that brings readers into a continuation of a sci-fi horror universe. Enjoy the story in written word, audio, artwork and soundscape.
Scrappers Part II
Flames crackled. Gravel moved around with each step. My heart pounded. Sweat beaded up over my face. I kept my gaze forward, keeping a close eye on my partner, Ruggy. He moved closer to the flickering orange heat. The sun had set entirely. The night vision goggles we used tried to balance out the contrast of light and dark but were of little use. One thing was clear, the silhouette of a muscular arm reaching for the skies.
The small UI chat message window at the bottom corner of the goggles lit up as Ruggy typed out a new message.
LET’S CIRCLE AROUND, WE’RE HEADING STRAIGHT FOR IT, he typed.
My eyelids twitched, navigating the chat program’s keyboard, typing.
GOT IT, I replied.
The two of us circled around as a haunting groan came from the silhouette’s location. The arm moved down to the ground. The being was trying to push itself up. It was wounded, how injured we didn’t know. Ruggy and I had to be cautious. This thing was looking more and more like a Harvester the closer we got.
As bold as Ruggy was for investigating the fire, I was not. All I wanted to do was run. Get the hell out of here as quickly as we could. The lack of site, the obscure stinging smell, and this massive being was enough to send me heading for the cruiser. Ruggy needed me though. Scrappers stuck together. There was no other option. Scrapper’s code always comes first.
Another sound screeched through the fire, this one was more distant. Violent. The noise caused Ruggy and I to turn towards the origin, trying to spot anything. Large torn scraps of metal pierced from the ground. The remnants of some sort of spacecraft.
THERE’S TWO, Ruggy typed out.
THAT DIDN’T SOUND THE SAME, I replied.
NO SHIT. STAY ON GUARD.
Ruffling from the first being picked up. We turned to see it attempting to stand upright, limping. A second screech erupted. The being reached for an object on the ground, a large spear.
SEE? HARVESTER. Ruggy typed.
The spear was a clear indicator of a Harvester. All humans knew it. They used those damned electrically charged spears to numb us. Harvesters needed us in good shape, ideally. That didn’t mean they weren’t afraid of brutal force.
WHAT’S THE PLAN? I asked.
The Harvester collapsed onto its spear, holding the rod tightly for support. Okay, it was critically wounded.
KILL IT, Ruggy typed.
A howling shriek boomed before I could type anything. A new bulky humanoid burst from the flames. Naked, claws, spikes, all colliding with the Harvester. The two humanoids tumbled onto the ground towards us, skidding to a stop. We leaped back as they came into view, rifles aimed.
An entangled, burnt lump of bloody limbs wrestled to get on top of one another. I froze, staring at the Harvester who landed with its back to the ground. The helmet was half-complete. Hardened foam caked around the damaged edges, revealing the face of the Harvester. It had blond patches of hair, most of it had scorched off the scalp. It scowled, blue eyes looking at its opponent. The Harvester’s large arms shook violently as it held onto the primitive being’s wrists. The second humanoid, slightly shorter, drooled as it’s sharp jaws remained open. Spikes pointed upright all along the back and outer limbs. The clawed feet hooked into the thighs of the Harvester, puncturing the flesh. Reddish-green blood poured out of the wounds.
SHOOT, Ruggy ordered.
I didn’t reply. I could only stare at the Harvester’s eyes as it wrestled with the naked beast. Harvesters were taller than us – more perfect you could say – stronger, and relentless. Yet, they were once us.
An ear-shattering clack erupted from Ruggy’s rifle. He fired several times as the automatic weapon projected the bullets into the Harvester and beast. The Harvester yelped in pain, a human cry. The beast howled like a dog. It ripped its claws free from the Harvester and landed on all fours, dashing away from the scene, blood drizzling on the ground behind it.
I lifted my rifle at it and pulled the trigger, firing at the creature as it disappeared from the crash site, vanishing into The Lost.
Shit, I thought.
Ruggy shouted, “eat it gene freak!” as he continued to fire at the Harvester. The bullets pinged off of the remaining armour. The exposed skin was defenceless, letting the bullets pierce into the flesh. Blood splattered all around. Its eyes squinted in agony as red and green liquid oozed out of its mouth.
I turned my weapon to the Harvester and paused. No human had been this close to a Harvester before. Especially in such a defenceless state. A part of me wanted to try and help the Harvester. Reason with it. Show the being that we weren’t that different after all. We could create a paradigm shift between the two species. No. It’s been tried before. It was a foolish idea.
“He’s going to spray!” Ruggy shouted.
Rugg’y words shot me out of my internal dilemma. My eyes widened as the Harvester managed to reach for his inner bicep, fingers pressing a touch screen that lit up red.
“Go!” Ruggy said, snagging my arm.
A loud beep came from the Harvester’s torn-up suit as small black holes opened all over the armour. Translucent liquid sprayed out of the suit in all directions and over the Harvester. Sizzling sounds followed as the liquid came into contact with the Harvester and the ground.
We barely made it out of the vicinity of the sprinkle, coming to a halt. The liquid had wholly covered the Harvester. A chemical reaction transformed it to foam, expanding in size. The Harvester clenched its teeth in pain as the foam ate away at his armour and flesh. The foam’s colour shifted into a slight green as the rest of the Harvester’s form was shrouded in the foam substance.
“Damnit!” Ruggy said.
I looked over at him to see that some of the liquid had gotten onto his shoulder. He tried to brush it off as it swelled up.
“I think it ate through my coat. I can feel it compressing,” he said.
The foam had stopped expanding, turning a slight red – proof that it had eaten some of his flesh. “It’s toughening,” I said, looking at it.
“Don’t get too close, kid,” Ruggy said stepping back. “Shit it stings.”
“We gotta get back to the cruiser and take care of it.”
“It’s not that bad. It hardened. Doesn’t matter if we slice it off now or later.” Ruggy said, his gaze locking onto the Harvester’s consumed form.
The being was engulfed by the froth. Snapping sounds picked up – crushing bones from the hardened fizz that began compress. Only a blob remained, in a rough humanoid pose. The surrounding ground had speckles of the foam in a light grey. All of the foam continued to compress inward, crushing the rocks – and Harvester – underneath.
“Pricks,” Ruggy said while walking towards it. “They always manage to pull off that stunt just when we got them.”
“I’ve never seen that before. I mean, I’ve seen videos of it in training,” I replied while walking up to Ruggy.
“Not the same is it?”
“Not at all. We really can’t cut the foam open?”
“No point. The acid eats away the surface and the foam crushes everything else. Plus, this shit is harder than diamond once it shrinks,” Ruggy said, kicking the foam on the ground. “If we could ever get our hands on even a fraction of their tech, it could change our situation.”
“Or understand their biology better,” I replied. “They look so human.”
Ruggy sighed. “Don’t let their appearance fool you next time. When I say fire, fire, understand?”
“Yeah, sorry. It just threw me off. I’ve never seen one without their suit.”
“Most don’t, because they pull off that stupid self-destruct system. Remember, just because they look like a perfect us, doesn’t mean they are us. Their minds are fucked up with a superiority complex.”
“Right,” I said, turning to look at the fire and nearby torn metal. “What do you think happened here?” I asked.
Ruggy shrugged. “The Harvester crashed. The question is, what the hell was it doing with that other thing?”
“I don’t know. It ran away before I could do anything about it,” I replied.
Ruggy walked from the caked Harvester towards the ships remains. “It was fast. Now it’s wandering The Lost. That’s something we gotta report.”
“We should go back,” I said.
“Not yet, let’s scope out the rest of this mess. The operator sent us here. Let’s see what was going on.” Ruggy said while walking towards the flame.
I followed Ruggy, taking one last look at the deceased Harvester. The fizz had compressed to a solid-state, perfectly outlining the shape of the giant humanoid, like some sort of dried-acid statue. Never before had I been so close to a Harvester. Most people that did didn’t survive. They were too fast, too strong, and too cunning. If that thing hadn’t been wounded and attacked, we would have been dead. That was a guarantee. In an odd turn of events that hostile beast was our saviour.
Ruggy and I walked cautiously through the rubble of the Harvester’s spacecraft remains. There were remnants of cables and hardware on the ground, too burnt to try and sample. We continued on, deeper into the mess. Most of the ship had been destroyed in the crash. Plus, Harvesters had a pretty clean method of destroying their technology, like they do with themselves. Anything of value regarding their ship was mostly disintegrated.
SOME GOOD METAL HERE, Ruggy typed out.
YEAH, I’LL GET THE ROVER, I replied while navigating through the goggle’s interface. My eyelids made slight movements to get to the rover’s retrieval command. The interface confirmed the rover’s signal. It’d be here in no time to carry the scraps. It’s always wise for Scrappers not to keep their rover around until we found something of value. Rovers are expensive and the one good piece of tech we get. The last thing we need is a Harvester to destroy it. Man do those rovers save our asses from having to haul heavy scraps.
WE MIGHT NEED THE WHOLE CRUISER AT THIS POINT, Ruggy typed out while walking around a large curved exterior of the craft. He carefully avoided nearby flames and any sharp pieces of metal that stuck out of the ground.
YEAH. LET’S JUST SEE WHAT ELSE IS HERE AND THEN WE CAN CALL THIS IN, I replied.
We stopped several times, looking to see if there was anything useful on the ground. Most of it was just scraps, the type of things we’d usually gather. Regardless of the danger, we both knew that this was going to be a good scrapping session. The operator would be pleased.
CHECK THIS OUT, Ruggy typed.
I hurried up to my partner to see a human-sized glass pod was shattered on the ground. It was probably not glass, but some Harvester equivalent. The broken pod was half melted away and a third missing. Tubes could be seen at the base of the cylinder shape.
“Think that beast came out of here?” I asked.
“Maybe,” Ruggy said in a low tone. “Look,” he added.
Several smaller pods were beside the large one. These were a little cracked but intact. Inside the pods were flesh-sacks floating in a translucent substance. The sacks were a light pink colour, but semi-transparent. Inside, small baby-like beings floated. Their eyes were closed, sleeping peacefully, undisturbed by the chaos that had just occurred.
“What are these?” I asked, leaning down.
Ruggy extended his arm out, stopping me from tilting any further. “Stay up,” he ordered.
One of the small creatures wiggled, moving its tiny, undeveloped hands around in the sack. An ambilocal cord was attached to the belly that reached the top of the sack.
“These are infants,” I said, standing upright.
“No, they’re not Angie,” Ruggy said, pointing his rifle at the baby.
“Are you dense?” I asked. “I know what a damn baby looks like.”
“Yeah but this was a Harvester’s craft,” Ruggy replied.
I shook my head. “Harvesters capture people. They take us to mess with genetics. This is a damn baby!”
“They also grow their own people in incubators.”
“So even if it is a Harvester baby, it’s a life,” I argued.
“A Harvester life. Or maybe that beast we saw,” Ruggy replied. “Either way, it isn’t one of us.”
“Ruggy, are you listening to yourself? You want to shoot these infants?”
Ruggy let go of his rifle and threw a swift hand across my face. The slap hit hard, probably turning my cheek pink. My eyes widened, feeling my flesh hum from the aftermath.
“Angie! Wake up. These are not humans.” Ruggy shouted. “They’re genetic freaks. They forced their DNA to evolve away from us. They look similar to us, but so did the great apes, and look at how we treated them when they were around.”
I swallowed a thick lump of saliva. Ruggy was trying to be a good person, but I knew he was getting frustrated. That slap was ‘nice Ruggy.’ ‘Mean Ruggy’ would have decked my ass and just do what he wanted. He was only trying to educate me.
“I know it’s tough to grasp,” Ruggy said. “We’re living in a fucked-up world where the lines of being human are blurred. This is why we stick to the code. Us against them. Harvesters broke all morale centuries ago when they edited their first DNA strand. Even if we saved these offspring and try to raise it, they don’t grow like us, and they don’t think like us. They’ll question themselves, and that is a can of worms we don’t need. Now raise your damn rifle.” Ruggy lifted his weapon, pointing at one of the pods.
I stared down at the second pod, looking right into the small being’s soft face. It wiggled around gently in the sack, stopping until it was facing me. Its eyes flicked open. White. Nothing but a white ball inside of the eye socket. Inhuman.
We fired at the pods, the bullets shattered through the glass, ripping through the embryo sacks and shredding into the small beings. The translucent liquid poured out of the broken glass, followed by streams of reddish-green fluids.