A featureless grey sky loomed above the decrepit masses of red steel. Ash rained down like snow. Gore crows circled silently above the gutted park, embraced by the falling sheets of poisonous dust. The quiet was broken only by the crashing of waves in the distance. Otherwise, silence reigned in a place that hadn’t known silence in a hundred years.
There, surrounded by the dead, a boy stumbled to the ground amid the countless bones that littered the sooty pavement. Panting, he turned and looked behind him for any sign of his pursuers. His blue eyes- sharp as ice- gleamed from under the shadow of his drawn cowl. He carried a revolving-bolt crossbow; high quality, pre-Collapse. A pack stocked with bolts was slung across his back.
The boy waited a moment more to make certain he wasn’t followed. Nothing moved. He was alone with the crows. He stood to leave, but stopped suddenly and cocked his head at the ground. Leaning forward, he plucked something from the ashes. It was an audio-log, still warm to the touch from laying in the ash. He held it to his ear, and a man’s voice crackled into existence and said,
// …okay… this is Cullen Fry, 23rd of April, 2043 //
We stopped for the night in what used to be an amusement park- a pretty famous one before the Pulse. Funny, lookin’ at it now… it seems so pointless. And fragile. Is this really all people will have to remember us by?
// 24th, April, 2043 //
The doc says we can’t leave yet. He says the palls are still toxic. I don’t really want to get on with our little trek- and I definitely don’t want to die in a pall, but I can’t stay here much longer. This place gives me the creeps. I’ll give the guy one more day. If he won’t go after that… (audio disturbance) …him and everyone else- I’m leavin’. The Colony won’t wait for us forever.
// End of Transmission //
The boy lowered the device. The freckles around his nose plunged downward as he frowned, looking both confused and thoughtful. Rolling the file between his fingers, he gazed at it as if willing it to reveal its secrets. After a moment, he tossed it away. So… it’s April, he thought.
A distant clang sounded from somewhere in the maze of rubble, and a murder of crows rose cawing from the east. The boy’s head swiveled toward the noise, and he sank into a feral half-crouch. He darted behind an overturned car and peered around it. Even as he watched, a small reconnaissance drone hovered into view from behind a heap of metal, scanning the area with its artificial eye. It stopped abruptly, and its eye flicked toward him, then it turned on him and emitted a warning screech before fleeing from sight.
“Aw, crap…” the boy snarled. They’ve found me. He crouched behind the car and drew his crossbow just as the drone returned, leading a squad of paramilitary fighters. They carried rifles and wore body armor with enclosed filtration helmets. Several had grenade belts strapped on, and the captain- a huge man with a robotic arm, rested a machine gun across his shoulders. The drone shrieked again and lased the boy with a homing beacon for the soldiers.
“It’s him!” the captain shouted.
The boy didn’t hesitate, he cocked the crossbow and emptied its magazine at the soldiers. Four dropped dead, and another stumbled back with a bolt protruding from his shoulder. He didn’t give them a chance to retaliate; he sprinted at the nearest fighter, hunting knife drawn, and unseamed the man before he could fire. Then he grabbed the corpse before it fell and used it as a shield as he snatched up the soldier’s weapon and pummeled the remaining fighters with a torrent of superheated bullets. The soldiers fired back, but they were disoriented and inaccurate. By the time the receiver clicked on the boy’s gun, only one fighter remained- the captain. The boy dropped the gun and the body as the enormous man lowered his weapon and spooled up its seven barrels.
The boy dove to the side, sliding under a rotted out car frame just as the machine gun fired. A maelstrom of lightning-like rounds shredded the car and the ground where he had just been. Rolling upright, the boy drew a combat hatchet from the sheath at his waist and hurled it at the captain. The axe sheared through the man’s magnetic shields and buried itself in his chest with a crack. The captain screamed once, then toppled backward and slammed into the pavement.
“Tourists.” The boy scoffed, turning to leave the mass graveyard he had just added to. And then he strode out of the crumbling remains of the old mankind’s frivolity. Behind him, the gore crows began to descend.