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.
Scrappers Part V
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. I didn’t want to. Watching those numbers go by every minute was discouraging. We knew that the Harvesters would give up on the hunt, eventually. The challenge was knowing when.
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 would never be. Scrappers were disposable, which is hard to believe, considering the diminishing human population. The higherups don’t care. We server a purpose in this new world. We gather 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’ve never met him. Ruggy says he met the man. A typical computer geek. Fast-talking and poor posture. We need folks like them, though. I just don’t get why they would send us out to a death trap. Operator 43-S3 knew that he was sending us to a Harvester’s crash sight. Maybe he was taking orders from the higher-ups. Maybe he thought we were disposable and only wanted the goods from the crash site to be rewarded. Who knew? We’d get answers when we got back to base. Eventually.
THINK IT IS SAFE TO GO NOW? I typed with swift eye movements, controlling my goggle’s interface.
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’ve 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 the goggles provided made the dark more bearable. Plus, it was warmer down here than on the surface. I kept staring at the Harvester’s tentacle that I crushed days ago. I knew it was destroyed, but I couldn’t help and wonder if it would pop back up and attack me again. Or perhaps it is 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, the Harvesters would have come for me by now.
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 ANYWAYS? 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’ve scrapped long enough that we know each other well. No point in small talk. Most of my time was spent evaluating the digital map in my goggle’s interface to try and make a guess as to where I was. The maps were based on the old world. We didn’t have any satellites to map out The Lost, so I could only guess roughly where I was. Based on the map, it was some skyscraper, one point in time, collapsed during humanity’s split.
I was careful not to overuse my goggle’s battery life. I couldn’t spend days just browsing around the maps and local documents. These things were high tech for humans but didn’t have otherworldly wonders like the Harvesters have. 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 wanted to get a better sense of my environment. His reasoning about the scanning tech that the Harvesters have was stupid anyway.
The night vision goggles let me navigate through the crooked, uneven hallways. No light was visible, so I had to be underground still. Some of the halls had doorways that weren’t collapsed, and I could enter the rooms. I walked into a room, cautiously avoiding the walls and rocks. The last thing I needed was to make some noise and trigger a Harvester, or something as simple as a collapsing ceiling.
The room was mostly the same as the hallway. It did have some snapped planks of wood. Some garbage and I think something that was once clothing. Anything we find in The Lost is usually a wreck due to past fires, falling rocks, or deterioration, rendering them useless.
I left the room, there was nothing of value there. The hallways led further into the unknown, but I didn’t want to go too far from my location. I shared the coordinates with Ruggy earlier. In case I had to go back, I didn’t want to hike too far. All I wanted was to get a better sense of my surroundings. Everywhere here was as dead as the closet I rested in.
The wait finally ended when Ruggy texted, OKAY, LET’S GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE. A wave of relief went over me. 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 telling. Ruggy must have finally gotten sick of sitting around like me. Guess we’d face our fate.
I retraced the steps that led me to the dark hideout that I stayed in. Thank God. The mouldy, musty smell was beginning to irritate me. It wasn’t difficult to find my previous locations. The collapsed rubble that separated myself and the Harvester was exactly where I remembered it being. This time, there was no Harvester. I slid my gun under the slit and then moved under to the other side. I eyed the opposite side of the hallway in the opposing rooms, the rooms that Ruggy had taken. He wasn’t anywhere near.
RUGGY, IM BACK WHERE WE SPLIT, 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 continued backwards from whence Ruggy, and I first entered the cavern. It was easy enough to retrace, not sure how Ruggy was having a difficult time. It didn’t matter. We’d get out of here, get back to the cruiser, and give a piece of our mind back at base.
The light grew brighter, the closer I got to the cavern entrance. The old world architecture began to be replaced with rocks and rubble – remnants of conflict. A part of me wanted to go deeper into the cavern to see what type of artifacts I could find down there, but it didn’t matter. Our history was partly 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 Harvesters 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.
A sense of relief went over me. We beat the Harvesters at their own game. Sure, we may have wrecked our cruiser in the process from that beast, but we survived. No one survives a Harvester.
WE HAVE SOME BRAGGING RIGHTS HERE WHEN WE GET BACK TO BASE, I typed.
The coordinates Ruggy supplied weren’t far, and I reached the location. It 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 goggle’s old world map.
RUGGY? I typed, looking around the area. The wind blew past me, blowing some of the dust in 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, and my instincts told me to get the hell out, yet Ruggy ordered me to come here.
RUGGY, I’M MOVING. I typed.
ANGIE STAY, Ruggie typed.
WHERE ARE YOU? I replied.
Still alarmed, I took my first step back as a humanoid morphed into view. The large being’s form rippled from transparency 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 at the Harvester as it began to walk towards me.
ANGIE, COME HERE, Ruggy typed.
Then, as I continued to fire at the approaching Harvester, I realized that I hadn’t been talking to Ruggy at all. Maybe at one point, I was. I don’t know. The Harvesters hacked out communication port. It was supposed to be a closed-off network, clearly not.
The bullets pinged off the Harvester’s suite as it marched. The sound clicked in a wave motion, moving at faster and slower tempos. 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 behind me. The Harvester picked up its pace. CLICK. CLICK. CLICK.
RUGGY, ANSWER ME. I typed. I wasn’t sure if he’d get the message. The Harvesters were one step ahead of us. I had to try, though. There was no other way of communicating with him.
ANGIE 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 erected 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 to every limb in 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 of my being. 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 came into view. The high-frequency clicking multiplied as the beings stared at each other. 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.
I felt fear in my mind. My muscles didn’t respond to the stress of the situation. It provided an odd sense of calmness as my captor dumped my body into a large steel crate. Holes horizontally lined the container walls. Airholes 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.