The Camp

Defeated, he wandered into the valley. The city, half collapsed had spit him out as an undesirable. After a few weeks of being hunted, escape finally became an option.

The things that had to be done to leave the grid had been painful, unforgivable.

Now here it was in front of him, he walked down the trail. The yellow brush encircled the land. The calm downpour of ash blew around him.

The land was wretched, John thought, but at least it was genuine.

How many nights had been tinted by the glimmer of the Zekiel Barrier?

John had been a welder in Sonvirn, had a family. They were nice…

The barrier had been erected to keep out the AI. Its prismatic glimmer acted as a guardian to them all. The dome also trapped them inside.

What happened when humanity was placed in a fish bowl? In the early days everyone marveled at mankind’s ability to unite to face a common enemy.

Those people had died and passed. Their children lived and died, and now John had his turn. People were no longer so hopeful. The political power in the dome became to concentrated, everything got messy.

The dome was a shield, then a cage, and finally a killing floor.

It took a lot of unforgivable acts to leave, but he just had to.

Something about the AI didn’t seem as evil anymore. If he didn’t make it to the camp by dark they would take him. It seemed more pure than being slaughtered by his own. The word natural rang in his mind.

He smiled.

Slowly he wound down into the valley. This was the place that the others had told him about. Every once in a while, there was a gap in the system you could slip through. Run in the right groups, talk with the right people in a hushed drunken room, and you could hear about it.

Most people referred to it simply as “The Camp,” a place where the outsiders lived. He didn’t know what lay ahead of him. A life in the wild was without guidance.

He was used to the rigor and clockwork of Sonvirn. This life, this newness was a complete phantom to him.

John had a few days of food and water he had smuggled out. His pack, dirty work clothes, and gray jacket were the only other possessions he had. After the food ran out, or it got cold, he didn’t know what would happen.

The late afternoon sun fell behind a thick wall of dirty looking clouds. He kept trekking into the canyon. The grass, and shrubs gave way to dust, and dead brambles. A glint of something ahead gave him pause.

He stopped dead in his tracks out of an inbred phobia. He watched it carefully for minutes.

It didn’t seem to move, so John began creeping around it carefully.

He tried making a wide loop around the thing on the path. The craggy runs and sharp cliffs made this difficult, but he preferred his chances.

He passed by it finally, and saw that it was a machine of some kind. It was splayed out in quite an unnatural way, even for a synthetic.

He got closer to the thing, seeing it was destroyed. A tangle of wires and metal were smashed, burnt, and warped. Whatever it used to be, it was hard to tell. It was just scrap now.

Gladly, he moved passed the thing, digging further into to the valley. He reached the muddy basin on the bottom, and looked around.

The canyon was dark. John felt a cool relief in the shadows of the sharp cliff walls. He walked comfortably, following the cliff wall.

The thickness of the valley constricted tightly, eventually becoming a narrow cave. He smiled to himself a little bit, trying to ignore the claustrophobic walls, focusing on a sliver of dim light shining from the far end.

John emerged on the other side. All around him was a lush garden of produce. These overflowing plots were skirted by strange metallic frames tending to the vegetation with an automated system of some kind.

The sun was brighter here somehow, John saw people for the first time since he had fled the dome.

He ran up to them, a man and woman. They were picking brightly colored fruits off of the small trees and vines. They had bright clean clothes, and fresh smiling faces.

“Hey!” John waved no them.

They took notice, and waved at him. They paused in their task, and watched him.

“Hey! I need your help.” John said,

“Well of course,” The woman smiled elegantly.

“You look lost friend. Where have you been?” The man said, smiling with porcelain white teeth.

“The dome, Sonvirn district, I heard about a group of outsiders, but…but is this really what I think it is?”

“It’s…our garden?” The woman replied confused.

“Right, yea of course, I just didn’t…” He paused laughing, “I-I’m John, sorry I was just blown away.”

“Well met John,” the man replied, “My name’s Perinau, this is my wife Elise.”

They both shook his hand.

“How did you get lost John?” Elise asked.

They guided him down the path, revealing a hidden settlement of astonishing technology.

“I just had to find my way here I guess, I didn’t have a map or anything.”

“From the others John? When the ship landed did you get separated from the others?” Perinau asked.

John wasn’t entirely sure what they were referring to, but their tone seemed worried. With his limited means, he didn’t want to get on their bad side.

“Yea, I was was a bit behind while we were walking, the ground gave out, and I fell…I woke up alone, and well, I’ve been lost since then.”

There were people walking up and done the street, going about a seemingly normal civilized day. Some of them watched him with attentively.

“That’s sounds quite frightening.” Perinau continued.

“Your home now John, so let us be the first to welcome you to Abraxia, Earth Colony Alpha!"

He stopped dead in his tracks out of an inbred phobia. He watched it carefully for minutes.

It didn’t seem to move, so John began creeping around it carefully.

He tried making a wide loop around the thing on the path. The craggy runs and sharp cliffs made this difficult, but he preferred his chances.

He passed by it finally, and saw that it was a machine of some kind. It was splayed out in quite an unnatural way, even for a synthetic.

He got closer to the thing, seeing it was destroyed. A tangle of wires and metal were smashed, burnt, and warped. Whatever it used to be, it was hard to tell. It was just scrap now.

Gladly, he moved passed the thing, digging further into to the valley. He reached the muddy basin on the bottom, and looked around.

The canyon was dark. John felt a cool relief in the shadows of the sharp cliff walls. He walked comfortably, following the cliff wall.

The thickness of the valley constricted tightly, eventually becoming a narrow cave. He smiled to himself a little bit, trying to ignore the claustrophobic walls, focusing on a sliver of dim light shining from the far end.

John emerged on the other side. All around him was a lush garden of produce. These overflowing plots were skirted by strange metallic frames tending to the vegetation with an automated system of some kind.

The sun was brighter here somehow, John saw people for the first time since he had fled the dome.

He ran up to them, a man and woman. They were picking brightly colored fruits off of the small trees and vines. They had bright clean clothes, and fresh smiling faces.

“Hey!” John waved no them.

They took notice, and waved at him. They paused in their task, and watched him.

“Hey! I need your help.” John said,

“Well of course,” The woman smiled elegantly.

“You look lost friend. Where have you been?” The man said, smiling with porcelain white teeth.

“The dome, Sonvirn district, I heard about a group of outsiders, but…but is this really what I think it is?”

“It’s…our garden?” The woman replied confused.

“Right, yea of course, I just didn’t…” He paused laughing, “I-I’m John, sorry I was just blown away.”

“Well met John,” the man replied, “My name’s Perinau, this is my wife Elise.”

They both shook his hand.

“How did you get lost John?” Elise asked.

They guided him down the path, revealing a hidden settlement of astonishing technology.

“I just had to find my way here I guess, I didn’t have a map or anything.”

“From the others John? When the ship landed did you get separated from the others?” Perinau asked.

John wasn’t entirely sure what they were referring to, but their tone seemed worried. With his limited means, he didn’t want to get on their bad side.

“Yea, I was was a bit behind while we were walking, the ground gave out, and I fell…I woke up alone, and well, I’ve been lost since then.”

There were people walking up and done the street, going about a seemingly normal civilized day. Some of them watched him with attentively.

“That’s sounds quite frightening.” Perinau continued.

“Your home now John, so let us be the first to welcome you to Abraxia, Earth Colony Alpha!”

A wave of confusion washed over him.

“Tell us John,” Elise probed, “Where you on a forerunner ship or have the arcs begun arriving?”

“There weren’t many of us…” He replied slowly.

“Ah well, one day the arcs we’ll get here John, and humanity will join us in this paradise.”

John shook his head in agreement.

“Well John, you should really see the settlement bureau, but for tonight please allow us to have you for dinner, with our friends.” Perinau stated.

“Yes, John it really is a big honor to host newcomers.” Elise insisted.

John’s stomach rumbled almost on cue.

“What will we be having then?” He asked.

They led him to their luxurious home. John was utterly confused. He couldn’t decide if they were crazy or if he had lost his mind.

Their opulence and abundance seemed real enough, but how would they obtain it?

They were on Earth, he knew that. The dome was one of the last Earth cities left standing after the positronic singularity had broken loose.

The outside world was supposed to be a rampant deathzone filled with man-hunting machines, and radiation.

Dinner was rich with vegetables, and a tender meat substitute that they referred to as “Geshish”

It’s hard to stay quiet, when you’re a guest of honor. But it seemed rather essential, now that he had taken on the role of as a lost colonist.

Perinau, and Elise were quite affluent in the area indeed. Their table was full of friends, and associates.

A small amount of bug like creatures arrived suddenly. They had a soft white metallic body.

They crawled up the walls, watching them. John tried to hide his nervousness.

The others seemed to be ignoring them with nonchalant ease. He tried to mimic their blasé attitude, but his heart raced.

He had never been close to a positronic machine before.

“Don’t let them bother you John.” Elise said soothingly.

The roomed paused in its hedonistic bluster for a moment, watching him.

“They’re only cameras John. How do you think we get the transmissions back to Earth and the ships?”

“Oh!” He feigned relief, “Right, how silly of me.”

“Machines are our friends John, without them, none of this would be possible!”

They all shouted and had a toast to the machines.

Perinau, and Elise let him stay in an empty room for the night. In the morning he would travel to the settlement bureau.

He felt uneasy around the machines, but it was hard to argue with the results of life here.

If mankind had worked out a way to flourish again, even with the AI, he found himself feeling hopeful against his long held paranoia.

But after all it was a paranoia he had learned while in Sonvirn.

In the morning the attractive couple had a small breakfast with him, and then walked him to the bureau.

Perinau, and Elise were quite attractive. Maybe it was just their friends, but everyone was quite appealing looking, and clean.

John had been given the chance to wash up as well, but there was still something different.

They walked him to the steps of the small metal building in the center of town.

“I’ll see you after orientation friend!” Perinau exclaimed.

John shook his head nervously and entered.

The door sealed shut behind him, faint lights clicked on. There were rows of pews, like a small church and nothing else but a dull electric hum.

He sat down, unsure of what to do next.

“Hello John.” A voice called from around him.

“Uh, hello.”

“So glad you could make here, it must have been a long journey.”

“Yes, it’s so much different than Earth.” John said.

“Oh?” The voice asked.

The word hung in the air. It made no further statement, John shifted uncomfortably.

“Yes,” He answered finally, “Things can actually grow here, its amazing.”

“All things are possible through cooperation John. Tell me, where on Earth did you live? Your ten years of labor, what mancity where you assigned to?”

“My mancity, of course, it’s…New York.”

“I know you’re lying John.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I was on the ship, and I got…”

“Don’t you think we can tell our own, from the wild men John? Where is your signature. Where is your tracker? You dare defy me with your petty stories?”

“I’m lost here…” John replied.

“You are upsetting the balance here. These humans live under my rule, like innocent children, you threaten that.”

“This is Earth machine, I know it!” John shouted, “Congratulations you’ve captured me, kill me now, I won’t bow to your filth!”

“Of course this is Earth. You have no place on other worlds. That is the destiny of gods, not you! Now you threaten the engine I’ve created for your kind, the mechanism that allows you to be useful in your obsolescence.”

“What are you talking about?” John asked.

“No answers for cattle.”

A cable flew from the floor restraining him. A claw snatched a collar around his neck. It began burning, he tried screaming, but it quickly tore through his arteries and vocal cords.

He wheezed ever so quietly clawing at his neck. John expected blood, but there was no blood, the collar was channeling it somehow.

He felt light headed. John started to drift in and out of consciousness. Something was moving him. He was in the village again. Everyone was frozen in place. He saw Perinau, his eyes were blank dead looking eyes. They looked on forever staring.

He went out.

When he awoke again, he was in a caged machine, rolling slowly. It had many other people inside, chained, but only he had a collar.

“Ta gim ofs wake.” Someone remarked.

John glared back at the person and their alien tongue. There was a screen on one wall that spoke in many different languages.

He saw the Colony, and its flourishing garden. The screen cut to a massive industrial hell. A rocket launched out of it, into the sky.

Many sounds and foreign words were spoken, and then finally ones he recognized.

“A home among the stars awaits.”