Chapter 1: Harvester
Two weeks after Occupation
Surrounded by debris, a large, dark skinned man rested upon a crumpled pile of mortar. Eyes firm and expression dull and seemingly not amused, it was obvious that the man scouting the terrain didn't seem to be enjoying his job all to well. His nam was Andre, Andre Shawn Wess. Taking a breath, Andre scratched his chest and glanced over the fallen cement pillar that was providing him little cover, his eyes trying to scan the surrounding downtown ruins as the blaring sun’s rays and the sweat from his forehead made the simple task rather difficult. Cursing softly as a bit of moisture dripped into his right eye he quickly wiped off the sweat with ragged glove before peering once more over the edge, only to gasp and quickly duck back down after catching the faintest glimpse of a black and chrome object.
“What’d you see?” A hushed voice from his right asked him, Andre glanced back at his companion David, a rather small and skinny man who wore green, faded military fatigues which made it look as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks. Truth be told if it hadn’t been for the few protein bars they had a few minutes ago that probably would’ve been true.
Andre took a deep breath and wiped his forehead once again, why the fuck of all days did it have to be so fucking humid? “I saw one of them walking trash cans,” he mumbled.
“Hum mumoomah?” David mocked his mumbling and scoffed when Andre whipped his sweaty glove at him.
“Fuck you,” Andre chuckled softly and shifted behind their small amount of cover. “Its one of those fucking robots.” As if on cue the steady, metal thuds from the machine’s feet could be heard, followed by the hums of its servos moving said feet. The two men fell silent and listened for a moment as they tried to judge the direction the mechanoid was moving in.
“Its heading east towards the river,” Andre said softly as he glanced at David who was looking at him as if he was some kind of idiot, his hand scratching his blonde stubble which seemed to be growing in a thick seat across his face.
“But the river is south of us.” Andre looked at him and shook his head, eyes narrowing as the men rested back no the rubble, hands tugging on his loose fitting pants which only seemed to be getting smaller with each passing day due to the lack of food.
“Yeah you’re right, but it also wraps around and travels up north a bit to empty out into the lake.” Andre took a breath and rolled his eyes as David stopped fidgeting and opened his mouth but then stopped to think for a moment before nodding his head in agreement. “You seriously have no sense of fucking direction." Andre muttered under his breath as he peeked back up and watched the spacer robot continue on with its patrol. Its sleek grey and black design reflecting the bright sun as it walked upon its four legs. Rising and falling as its metallic limbs clanged an echoed against the ground, occasionally its torso would twist and turn, is arm mounted guns swiveling back and forth as it surveyed the area, looking for survivors to either capture, or kill.
Andre lowered himself back down and looked at David before continuing their conversation,"Why the hell did they choose some fuck who can’t even picture his surroundings to scavenge?”
“Fuck you, at least I can aim and shoot a fucking gun.” David shoved Andre in his side, chuckling softly.
Andre shoved them man back and grinned. “Like that’s going to stop your sorry ass from getting lost––” Both men were silenced by a daunting howl which emanated from the now distant mechanoid. Now out of habit Andre and David pressed their bodies against the dirt and rubble, trying to get low as possible before turning their ears to the sky. In the distance, the men could hear a quick succession of shots coming from the autonomous being’s gun. A sharp, chum, like sound going off rapidly before fading out for a few moments only to quickly start up again.
“We need to get moving,” David said as shifted to his knees, still staying low enough to keep his head below the debris, “whatever that thing is shooting at, it’s only going to draw more of them.”
“Should we call it off and just go back to camp?” Andre asked as he shifted to his knees as well. “We can maybe hit a couple houses on our way back.” David shook his head and began to crawl backwards away from their cover, the distant mechanoid gunfire coming to an end which ended with a high pitched howl, to which they assumed was some kind of all clear announcement.
Andre followed David as the two of them slid down hill of rubble which was once a collapsed apartment complex. “No. Most of those houses are already picked clean, Jeremiah said the Fifth Third stadium was an outpost for the national guard.” The two of them landed back onto the deserted road and dropped down low to hide behind the various tipped and other wrecked cars as they continued to move down the road deeper into the downtown district.
“Yeah so?” Andre muttered as they hid behind a public transportation bus.
“Yeah so?” David mocked in a sarcastic voice. “Point is there could be guns, food, medical supplies. Y’know? Shit we might need.” Andre remained silent for a moment as David peeked around the edge of the bus, checking the surrounding area.
Andre nodded a bit in understanding. “Alright yeah, that stuff sounds good.” He bit his lower lip briefly. “But...how the hell are we going to lug a good chunk of that shit back?” David shrugged.
“I don’t fuckin’ know,” He waved for Andre to follow, the two of them slipped around the bus and continued down the road before dashing down an alleyway between two surprisingly untouched buildings. “I’m assuming we only grab a little bit and save the rest for later...hoping that it’ll still be there.”
“Times like this I wish we had a goddamn truck,” Andre once again muttered to himself.
“If only these fucking buggers didn’t like blowing that shit up,” David said before holding a hand out to stop Andre as the two of them stopped at the edge of the alleyway.
“What is it––?” Andre started but was stopped by David shushing him.“Listen!” He hissed.
The two of them fell silent for a few moments and Andre was about to open his mouth but stopped when he heard it. A sharp hum splitting the air above them. Both men’s eyes widened, their hearts racing as they knew what was coming.
David turned and smacked Andre in the chest, urging him to go back. “You have that crowbar?!” he asked in a panicked tone, all previous notions of using stealth going out the fucking window as he started to run down the alleyway back where they came.
“I never leave home without it!” Andre replied also running, his heart beating as the sharp hum gradually crescendoed before converting to a massive, deep bellow which resembled to something of a cruise ship yet not so pleasant.
David stopped halfway down the alley and dropped to his knees, his hands sweeping away the rubble and small, dirtied bullet casings which looked to be 5.56 based on the shape. Smiling widely as he brushed away the debris David found that he had unearthed a manhole.
Andre dropped down beside David as the Harvester’s horn drowned out everything around him. Within seconds the Earth began to shake around them just as a shadow from the looming vessel made itself noticeable. His heart pounding, he glanced over and saw David reaching for the crowbar in his pack. Throwing off his pack, Andre handed David the tool and glared up at the sky, just above the tip of one of the towering office buildings, he could see the edge of Harvesters gristly hull.
Unlike the chrome mechanoid he had observed walking down the street earlier, this ungodly vessel appeared to be organic in natural. Nothing on its hull looked metal or smooth at all. Instead it seemed wet and mushy as bits and ends on it pulsed and writhed with these unimaginable tendrils which wriggled and lashed out upon nothing. Gazing up with such terrifying awe Andre watched as the organic craft drifted over them and eclipsed the sun, its details now being blocked out.
“Goddammit let’s go––” Andre briefly heard before being deafened by the menacing horn coming from the craft. He felt David grasp his shoulder and yank, snapping him out of his stupor.“S-sorry!” Andre thought he heard himself apologize as he looked to see David already climbing down into the now opened sewer. Gathering his thoughts he quickly followed his companion down into the hole before reaching back up and pulling the cover back over the hole, sealing the two men inside.
The two of them dropped down on a narrow walk way beside the shit smelling water. “I can’t see shit down here...” Andre muttered softly as he fished a hand into his pocket to pull out his dinky little pocket flashlight.
“The fuck is wrong with you?” David slugged Andre in the shoulder, thus nearly causing the man to almost drop his flashlight.
“I-I don’t fucking know!” Andre glared at David as he turned on the flashlight, the fluorescent light cutting through the darkness to reveal the murky shit water and moldy walls. “I never seen one of those things that close before, I was fucking scared!”
David sighed and shook his head. “Next time, shit your fucking pants while moving, you could’ve gotten us both taken!”
Andre nodded his head and took a breath as well. “Note taken, shit pants while running.”
David snorted and patted Andre’s shoulder. “Good.” He turned and motioned for Andre to take lead with the flashlight. “Now’s a good time to abort the mission.”
“What about the outpost?”
“It’s a no go. This is the first time in a week since a Harvester has flown through,” David said as Andre stepped past him, the two men began moving down the tunnel, trying their very best not to slip into the pissy water.
A brief silence fell over the two of them. “Think they might’ve found one of the havens?” David looked at Andre and curled his lips before slowly nodding his head.
“What other reason why that thing would’ve shown up?” David said solemnly. “It ain’t too often the Spacers get a chance at rounding up a bunch of poor bastards anymore.” The two fell quiet once more as they continued their trip down the sewer before coming across another opening, as David stepped past Andre to grab one of the rungs on the ladder, he looked back at him. “Lets just hope it wasn’t going after our people.”
“Amen to that.”
“So any ideas where that thing could be heading?” Andre asked as he took David’s hand who in turn pulled the man out of the sewer.
David shook his head. “Not a clue...it looked as if it was heading due east.” Andre pushed himself up onto his feet and stretched a bit as David took a breath and gazed out towards the direction the harvester was traveling in, off in the distance he could faintly hear its bellowing howls. “Last I recall, there aren’t any havens out there.”
Andre took a breath. “Perhaps we just weren’t looking hard enough,” he said as he looked at David who simply shrugged. Andre lightly tapped David’s shoulder, causing the man to turn and look at him with a raised eyebrow. “We still hitting the stadium?” he asked.
David sat there for a moment and glanced upwards at the sun, he took a breath and shook his head. “No. Its getting too late, by the time we’d make it back to base it’ll be night fall,” David said and looked up at Andre who shook his head, hand wiping away the sweat he looked back at David with open arms.
“Colonel isn’t going to be happy if we come back fucking broke.” Andre’s arms fell to his side and he shook his head.
“Like I said, we can hit some of the houses on our way back,” David said gesturing towards their home with a free arm. “Not only that we just got valuable intelligence, there’s a harvester heading east.” He let his hand drop and he stepped a bit towards Andre. “Wherever there’s a harvester, there’s bound to be survivors!”
Andre frowned and glared up at David, he took a breath and shook his head. “Yes and there’s also a shitload of fucking Freaks too,” Andre added to David’s words, his friend nodded in compliance.
“Yeah, and if we get back to the Ottawa Haven and alert the colonel, we can send out a scouting party!” David Walked up to Andre. “We could bolster our numbers!”
“And become a larger target? Or lose our scouts due to us trying to save people we don’t even know exist?” Andre flicked David’s forehead, the smaller man blinked and stepped back before scowling.
“Perhaps...” David muttered and Andre took a breath. “Look man, I know you have a kid back at the haven, but think about it...if we can gain more people and if the stadium does have weapons––” Andre held up a hand and silenced David.
“We had this discussion, David, I don’t wish to have it again,” Andre turned and began to walk towards the direction of Ottawa park.
David sighed and began to follow the man. “But think about it Andre!”
“I have thought about it,” Andre said from his shoulder. “And it’s fucking stupid!” David fell silent as he caught up to Andre and began walking by his side. “Think about it man, whatever these spacer fucks are. There’s no stopping them.”
“So you gave up?” David glanced at Andre who in turn snorted and laughed.
Andre placed his hand on his face, shook his head and sighed. “Fuck, I never even started!” Andre glanced at the man. “Where the fuck have you been?” He asked as he pointed towards the military insignia on David’s fatigues. “I don’t know what they taught you in the national guard before they were blasted off the fucking planet. These Spacer bastards kicked our door open, destroyed every country’s military, toppled every government and here we are now.” David glared at Andre who simply shook his head once more. “How do you possibly think we, a couple midwestern hicks, can organize ourselves and blow up some mechanoids which a single tank can’t even scratch?”
David pursed his lips and stepped back, head lowered before quickly swinging back up to look at Andre. “Well aren’t you ripe with fucking optimism!” Andre snorted and laughed out loud.
He smiled at David who simply nodded. “Pretty much, it’s the only thing that keeps me going,” he said as he fixed his coat and took a breath, a distant bellow could be heard in the distance, it was the all clear from another mechanoid. Andre bit his lip. “C’mon, let’s get out of here.”
David and Andre krept through the underbrush, the packs on their backs filled with what few supplies they had gathered from the nearby neighborhoods on their way back to the Haven. Keeping their heads low, Andre halted in his tracks when David lifted a hand to stop him.
“Flash!” The man hissed under his breath.
After a few moments of silence they would receive a rasp response. “Thunder!” Both Andre and David smiled as they straightened themselves out and stepped out of the underbrush, in front of them, two men and one woman stepped out clad in what looked to be homemade camouflage consisting of dried leaves and grass draped over the mud caked bodies. Each of them holding weapons ranging from a farmer’s twelve gauge to a military issue M4A1 carbine.
Pleased to see familiar faces, Andre and David straightened themselves out and shook each of the three Haven defender’s hands. The man wielding the carbine giving Andre a death grip shake as he asked, “No luck getting to the field today?” The man asked, his voice deep and rasp. He already knew the answer based on the solemn look Andre had when he shook his head.“Damn Spacer’s are patrolling the goddamn city like the fucking police during a campaign rally.” Andre shifted his bag and stretched as David nodded his head in agreement before looking to the three.“Not only that we spotted a Harvester heading east,” David said as he wiped the bottom of his nose and sniffed. The three armed soldiers in front of them frowned, their eyebrows going up to the their dirtied hoods.
“You’re shitting me,” The woman holding the twelve gauge said, and David shook his head and sighed.
“Beautiful I wish I was...” He took scratched the back of his neck, the three guards began mumbling to one another before looking back at Andre and David.
“You should probably go let the General know.” The larger man said just as David started moving past them, his hand patting the man on the shoulder as he walked.“I already planned on it, though for everyone’s benefit, keep that info to yourselves,” David glanced at the man from over his shoulder. “We don’t need to cause another panic.” The guards nodded their heads in understanding.“Yes sir.”
David smiled and stepped back into the underbrush just before waving Andre to follow to him. Shifting his backpack, Andre gave the guards a small wave before stepping around them and briskly moving to catch up to David. “It still amazes me that they speak to you as if you’re the superior,” Andre muttered as the two men entered a small clearing. The sight of tents, cars, and small trenches coming into view.
The small, national guardsmen sighed as he straightened himself out and began walking normally. “Yeah, you get that when you were a sergeant...” He motioned with his head towards the three bar insignia on his left shoulder. “...Or uh. Am a sergeant seeing how we’re in a war once more, I could probably consider myself enlisted again.”
Andre rolled his eyes as the two men came up to a camouflaged trench which was about seven feet deep, the two men hopped down into it, grunting as their feet landed on the dried dirt. “I thought it was because we’re raiders,” Andre said and David nodded his head as the two began to head down the trench towards the supply hut their sore feet occasionally scraping the dried dirt a they shifted to get around the few other survivors and armed soldiers.
“Could be. Or it’s because, Jonathan was a corporal.” Jonathan was the larger man with the carbine. “I knew cause him and I traded war stories before.” The two of them reached as small decline which led into a dug out hole covered in branches and leaves. David ducked his head under the camouflage as he continued speaking, “How come you think General Watson gave him one of our better weapons and has him always right on the edge of the haven.”
Andre ducked under and into the fowl, mud and gunpowder smelling room the survivors had dug out and made into a supply depot. The room had a few tables were others, dubbed sorters, went through the various caches of supplies the scavengers brought back. Separating the items into categories such as food, medicine and as well as weapons. The food and medicine were locked inside separate compartments within the room, whereas most of the larger weapons and ammunitions were locked away above the surface near the “Mission Control” which was what most of the jarheads called.
As David and Andre handed their packs to the sorters the larger man snorted. “Yeah. I get it,” He said before thanking the young woman a she took his pack, he turned away with David, his hands now resting inside his beaten jean pockets.
The two of them exited the supply depot and quickly banked left and made their way down a another trench line before coming across a small ladder, climbing up it David turned to Andre and helped the man up onto his feet. “C’mon, Big man,” he grunted before smiling and saying. “It’s time to be debriefed and get bitched at.”
General Watson, an older man with salt and pepper hair, a decently built frame and a scruffy beard carved many canyons into his forehead as he scrunched his eyebrows upon hearing the news of the Harvester. His eyes looked up at the two younger gentlemen across the table covered in crude maps that made up Lucas County and science fiction collectibles used to represent possible scavenging points and defender positions.
“You’re fucking shitting me?” Were the first words after a one minute silence. Andre shifted a little bit and David barely kept himself from smiling.
Ex sergeant shook his head. “No sir, we’re not shitting you,” He said as he straightened himself out. “We saw it pass just over Woodruff Avenue, heading East Towards the River.”
Watson bit his lower lip and turned around and began pacing around the hobbit hole that made of mission control. “Dammit!” The older man cursed and turned towards the single man running their radios. “Commo, radio Delta. Tell them to get their asses back here,” Watson ordered, referring to the only scavenging team which possessed a radio. Delta was known for going on further missions deeper into the Occupied territory. Watson whirled around and cursed once more. “We’ll need to tighten up security, restrict light usage after hours and lower our runs.” He glanced up at David and Andre. “What else did you two see.”
Andre gulped and cleared his throat before he said, “We saw and heard a mechanoid engage an unknown group of survivors down by Erie St.” He pointed to the road on the map.
Watson sighed and nodded his head. “That was Alisson’s team, one of their boys got wounded but they escaped through the sewers.” Watson pulled back and looked at them. “You’re positive it was only heading east?” He referred to the harvester, to which the men nodded their heads and Watson sighed softly. “Alright then...tomorrow I want you two back in here by 0600.” Andre nearly choked and Watson took light of this. “Something wrong, Raider?” He asked with a raised eyebrow.
“W-with all do respect, Sir.” Andre looked into Watson’s eyes. “I don’t know if I can go back out there.” Watson sighed softly and leaned over the table.
His voice low, he said, “I know you have a little one, Mr. Wess, but you’re a local, and compared to the other local’s you’re the strongest. Hell you’re up there with most of my boys.” He gestured to David who nodded. “But we need those weapons, we’ll talk more about this tomorrow. Now go on, dinner is about to be served.” Andre blinked and nodded his head before turning on his heels in unison with David.
The two men stepped out and climbed up the small slope up to the surface. “Man. Talk about shit,” David said and he stretched. “And I was hoping to sleep in tomorrow.” Andre stopped and took a breath.
“How do you do it?” He asked David who stopped and cocked his head back.
“Eh?” David fully turned to face Andre who stood there looking down at the dirt.
Andre took a breath and looked up at the man, his face full of worried. “How are you able to take the fact of going back out there the next day so casually? It’s like you’re used to going out and not worry about getting taken?” David frowned and raised an eyebrow.
He then shrugged. “I guess it’s because I’m not a fucking pussy...but...if you want an honest answer. I ain’t got anything to lose man, you have a kid and well....I don’t fucking know. I ain’t your therapist.” Andre snorted at this and nodded his head.
“Yeah. I guess you’re not.” Andre bit his lip and shifted a little as he heard a literal sound of a dinner bell being rung. David walked over and patted his shoulder.
“Look man. Don’t take my posture and shit he wrong way, I was scared shitless out there today,” He said honestly as the two men started walking towards the mess area. People sleeping in tents and cars started clambering out of them, guards who weren’t on duty moving with rifles and weapons slung and holstered caught up with them. “I just know how to control that fear, fear is one of the biggest killers in a fire fight, or fuck it, in any situation. But once you master that emotion...I won’t say you’re invincible, but you have a pretty big edge on everyone else.”
Andre nodded his head. “I guess that makes sense.”
David’s smile widens and smacks Andre on the back. “Of course it fucking does, now c’mon, I’m craving oatmeal.”
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