The concluding chapter in the Scrappers story. Follow Angie and Ruggy as they make their grand escape from the stalking Harvesters. The two have a hell of a lot of questions for their operator when they get back to base, presuming they make it out of The Lost alive.
Scrappers Part V continues the sci-fi horror universe that is being developed through short stories. Enjoy the story in written word, audio, artwork and soundscape.
Time became an abstract concept. I wasn’t sure if I stayed in the abandoned wreckage for hours or days. I preferred it that way. It would be easy enough to turn on the time stamp in the chat thread Ruggy and I had open. But I didn’t want to. Watching those numbers go by every moment would be discouraging. We knew that the Harvesters would give up on the hunt eventually. The challenge was knowing when. It wasn’t like they were on a stopwatch. The two of us could stay in the dark for days if we wanted. Or we could attempt to return to The Lost, risking our lives, for the Harvesters could be waiting right outside. I was comfortable waiting longer. What was the rush? No one would miss two Scrappers back at base.
The harsh reality was that Ruggy and I weren’t anyone special and we would never be. Scrappers were disposable, which was hard to believe, considering the diminishing human population. The higher-ups didn’t care. We served a purpose in this new world by gathering the remnants of the old for those deemed better than us.
As the hours—or days—passed, I kept thinking back to the operator that brought us here, operator 43-S3. I’d never met him. Ruggy said he did once, and the guy was a typical computer geek—fast-talking with poor posture. We needed folks like him, though. I just didn’t get why he would send us out to a death trap. Operator 43-S3 had known that he was leading us to a Harvester’s crash site. Maybe he was taking orders from someone above. Perhaps he thought we were disposable and only wanted the goods from the crash site so he could be rewarded for his discovery. Who knew? We’d get some answers when we got back to base, eventually.
THINK IT IS SAFE THHO GO NOW? I typed with swift eye movements, controlling my goggles’ interface. My eye twitched unintentionally, making the typo. The stress and exhaustion were catching up with me.
NAH, Ruggy replied. WE’D BEST WAIT ANOTHER DAY JUST TO BE SURE.
A DAY? HOW LONG HAVE WE BEEN IN HERE? I instantly regretted asking the question, knowing that an answer would tell me exactly how long we’d been sitting in the dark.
A COUPLE OF DAYS, Ruggy typed. I HAVE ENOUGH CAPSULES TO LAST A WEEK. YOU?
SAME. THE SURVIVAL KIT WAS FULL WHEN I GRABBED IT.
A couple of days. My mind could barely wrap around the fact that I had been sitting in the same spot for that long. The night vision from the goggles made the dark more bearable—barely. Plus, it was warmer down here than on the surface. I kept staring at the Harvester’s crushed tentacle. I knew it was destroyed, but I couldn’t help wondering if it would pop back up and attack me. Or perhaps it was like a beacon signal for the Harvesters, and they would come for me. It was nonsense. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. If it were true, the Harvesters would have come for me by now. Either way, it hadn’t helped me get any sleep.
IF WE’RE GOING TO STAY HERE ANOTHER DAY, HOW ABOUT WE MEET UP? I typed.
WE’VE BEEN THROUGH THIS. THE FEWER MOVEMENTS, THE BETTER.
IF THEY CAN SCAN THE LANDSCAPE, CAN’T THEY DETECT HEAT ANYWAY? THIS IS POINTLESS.
WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TYPE OF TECH THE HARVESTERS HAVE, Ruggy typed. WE CAN ONLY MAKE EDUCATED GUESSES. THE WHOLE POINT IS TO SURVIVE THIS ORDEAL.
I WANT TO GIVE THAT OPERATOR A PIECE OF MY MIND, I replied.
TRUST ME, SO DO I, Ruggy typed. THAT RAT KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING WHEN HE SENT US TO THE HARVESTER’S CRASH SITE. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT WAS IN IT FOR HIM.
Ruggy and I exchanged some messages back and forth a few times. Other than that, we didn’t have much to say to one another. We’d scrapped long enough that we knew each other well—no point in small talk. Most of my time was spent evaluating the digital map in my goggles’ interface to try and guess where I was and where he was. The maps were from the old world. We didn’t have any satellites to map out The Lost, so I could only guess where I was. Based on the map, it had been some skyscraper at one point in time, collapsed during humanity’s split.
I was careful not to overuse my goggles’ battery life. I couldn’t spend days just browsing around the maps and local documents. These things were high tech for humans but lacked the otherworldly wonders that the Harvesters had. So, I eventually did get up from my location and wandered the halls. Ruggy didn’t need to know. If he wanted us to wait another day, I needed to get a better sense of my environment. His reasoning about the scanning tech that the Harvesters had was stupid, anyway.
The night vision goggles let me navigate through the crooked, uneven hallways. No light was visible, making it safe to say I was underground. Some of the halls had intact doorways, so I could enter. I walked into a room, avoiding the walls and rocks. The last thing I needed was to make some noise and alert a Harvester, or break something and have the ceiling collapse.
The room was mostly the same as the hallway. It did have some snapped planks of wood, some garbage, and something that was once clothing—I think. Anything we found in The Lost was usually a wreck due to past fires, falling rocks, or deterioration, rendering it useless.
I left the room. There was nothing of value there. The hallways led farther into the unknown, but I didn’t want to go too far from my location. All I wanted was to get a better sense of my environment. Everywhere here was as dead as the closet.
The wait finally ended when Ruggy texted, OKAY, LET’S GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE. Relief. We’d finally be getting out of this dungeon.
WHERE SHOULD WE MEET? I asked.
YOU REMEMBER WHERE WE SPLIT? SEE IF WE CAN MEET UP THERE, Ruggy typed.
IF WE DON’T MEET THERE?
WE’LL FIND EACH OTHER ON THE SURFACE.
Ruggy’s order sealed the deal. We could return to The Lost. A second thought entered my mind—what if the Harvesters never left? They had probes. They could be waiting for us to tire out and leave our hideouts. We had no way of knowing. I knew Ruggy must have finally gotten sick of sitting around like me. It was time to face our fate.
I retraced the steps that led me to the dark hideout I’d stayed in all those days. The mouldy, musty smell was beyond irritating. Retracing my path wasn’t difficult. The collapsed rubble that separated me and the Harvester was precisely where I remembered it being. This time, there was no Harvester. I slid my gun through the slit and then moved under to the other side. I eyed the opposite side of the hallway, eyes glued to the opposing room—the one Ruggy had entered. He was nowhere to be seen.
RUGGY, I’M BACK, I typed.
I COULDN’T FIND HOW I GOT HERE, Ruggy replied. I THINK I’M GETTING CLOSE TO THE SURFACE, THOUGH.
COORDS? I asked.
That was something useful. We’d meet up back on the surface. With the new plan in mind, I backtracked to whence Ruggy and I first entered the cavern. It was easy enough; I was not sure how Ruggy was having a difficult time. But it didn’t matter. We’d get out of here, get to the cruiser, and give that operator a piece of our mind back at base.
The closer I got to the cavern entrance, the brighter the light grew. The old-world architecture was replaced with rocks, plants, and rubble—the aftermath of conflict. A part of me wanted to explore further in the cavern and discover artifacts down there, but what for? Our history was mostly archived in digital storage. Anything else took up space, and I didn’t need to haul that around.
I found the cavern entrance and hiked out into The Lost. Despite the clouded atmosphere, some light made it through to the planet’s surface. It was daytime. I shut off the night vision of my goggles and scanned the terrain. There were no signs of the Harvester ground troops and no sign of their ship.
IT’S ALL CLEAR HERE, RUGGY, I typed while walking towards the coordinates he provided.
GOOD, SEEMS CLEAR HERE TOO, Ruggy replied. I’M ALMOST AT RENDEZVOUS.
We had beat the Harvesters at their own game. Sure, we may have wrecked our cruiser in the process from our encounter with that beast, but we’d survived. No one survives the Harvesters.
WE HAVE SOME BRAGGING RIGHTS HERE WHEN WE GET BACK TO BASE, I typed.
The coordinates Ruggy supplied weren’t far. Reaching them took no time at all. The area was an open patch of rubble. Nearby rocks and collapsed towers were a good several dozen paces away. This had to be some sort of park, based on the goggles’ old-world map.
RUGGY? I typed, looking around the area. The wind blew past me, lifting dust into my face. No one. There didn’t seem to be any cavern entrances nearby, either.
RUGGY, DID YOU MESS UP THE COORDINATES? I’M OUT IN THE OPEN.
No reply. Something wasn’t right. My instincts told me to get the hell out, yet Ruggy ordered me to come here.
RUGGY, I’M MOVING, I typed.
STAY, Ruggy typed.
WHERE ARE YOU? I replied.
Still alarmed, I took my first step back as a humanoid morphed into the space. The massive being’s form rippled from thin air and into full view. The gunmetal armour shined in the daylight as high-pitched clicking began to project from the being.
“Shit! Ruggy!” I called out, pulling my rifle’s trigger. The gun clacked, firing bullets at the Harvester walking towards me.
STAY, ALLY, Ruggy typed.
RUGGY, WHERE ARE YO— I stopped typing. Ally? I thought, firing at the approaching Harvester. Clarity of the mind made my stomach invert, realizing that I hadn’t been talking to Ruggy at all. Maybe at one point I had been. I didn’t know. The Harvesters had hacked our communication port. It was supposed to be a closed-off network. But clearly it wasn’t.
The bullets pinged off the Harvester’s suit as it marched. The clicking sound changed tempo in a wave motion, moving faster and slower. I continued to back up in the open space. Glancing back, I saw I could make a run for it. I had to try. Guns were pointless. I sprinted from my battle stance, dashing as fast as I could.
Footsteps thudded. The Harvester picked up its pace. CL-I-I-I-I-CK. CL-I-I-ICK. CLICK. CLICK. CLICK. CL-I-I-I-ICK.
RUGGY, ANSWER ME, I typed. I wasn’t sure if he’d get the message. The Harvesters were always one step ahead of us. I had to try. There was no other way of communicating with him.
ALLY, COME HERE, the Harvester typed.
“Ruggy!” I cried out as a large hand snagged my arm, spinning me around.
I pulled the trigger of my rifle, trying to do anything to save my skin. The bullets pinged off the armour. The Harvester swatted the weapon clean from my hand, knocking it to the ground. It snatched my neck as a spear rose from a small opening in the Harvester’s palm. The weapon expanded into its full form as it sparked to life, humming. An electro-spear.
The Harvester plunged the weapon into my gut, causing my whole body to tense up. The shock erupted through my chest and into every limb of my body. The pulsation hit my head and travelled through the goggles, frying them. The interface was gone. My head spun. I had lost all control. I could see . . . no. My vision was blurry. I could hear . . . a little. I felt . . . nothing. Numbness.
My captor chucked me to the ground as two more Harvesters rippled into view from thin air. The high-frequency clicking multiplied as the beings stared at me. I tried to fight the electrical current that numbed my body. I had to. No one else was going to get me out of this. I couldn’t.
The muscles didn’t respond to the stress of the situation. The release of control provided an odd sense of calmness as my captor dumped my body into a large steel crate. Holes horizontally lined the container walls. These were air holes to let me breathe. I could hear groans other than my own. The smell of sweat and dirt filled the space. Other humans were in the cage with me. We were cattle, harvested.
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