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I’m writing an open source sci-fi novel. You can follow along here or https://wrannaman.com

If you’d like to support the work, you can buy the book on amazon or gumroad

Use “presale” code at check out to get 30% off!

If you’re just jumping, you might want to start at the beginning!

0.1.12

The massive red wasteland east of the coast is known as the Dunes, home to the Hybrid colonies. It is vast and sparsely populated, but a great place to find scrap materials to create something valuable with and bring it back to the Arc to sell in the markets. It is the supply area for most of the Arc goods despite the Arc having its own dumping grounds. The Arc dumping grounds used to be a favored spot when a fuel supply was discovered further south from there, but as that dried up, so too did the scraps being airdropped near the Arc. The Sikkas now favored the Dunes though the Arc was still a more convenient, and frankly safer place to trade for them. The sikkas felt like they had more control in the dunes given the hybrids were effectively given a safe sandbox to kill each other in. Sometimes you could find the hull of a plane, or a shipping container of bicycle wheels. The only trouble was that if you found something, and another crew had followed you, you’d likely be dead before you had the chance to open the container. The first hybrid settlement there was not a settlement at all, but a dumping ground for failed experiments on humans. They dumped equal parts human exhaust and technological exhaust into the sand. These people were born normal but were often poor or lab-bred for the sole purpose of forwarding the Emperor’s weapons experiments. They’d done savage things to the human body in the name of science. Most of the experiments failed, thus most of the experimentees died. Those who didn’t were often in chronic pain from the experimental surgery. Quick engineering iterations and rapid prototyping applied to people. These rejects banned together to form the first hybrid colonies. Though they had a common pain, hybrids had a difficult time getting along with other colonies. Once they took to a tribe, it was rare to see them leave. Understandably so, as the tribe was usually the only kind of family they’d ever known. Their wounds and mangled bodies left them bitter, spiteful, and murderously loyal. Over time, the single colony split, forming many colonies, and each took to scavenging, repurposing parts, and selling them back to the Sikkas or to resellers in the Arc. Heavily armed colonies religiously roamed around the Dunes searching for their next big find, or decimating another colony to steal what they had found. They drove heavily modded cars that looked like moving boxes of metal with windows, and guns mounted from every conceivable angle. The closest thing they resembled were the old tanks that countries would bring into war, or rather, what a do-it-yourself tank might look like if you could only source material from a small radius.

When Kaiya first learned of the Dunes in school, and their resemblance to a failed state in history, she found it impossibly difficult to imagine the sheer amount of people that used to fight at the same time during past wars before the Awakening. Billions of people were around then, an unimaginable number. But, then again, the world was a very different place then. Ten thousand people is a nearly unimaginably large crowd, but in one of the World Wars, the thought of fifty million deaths was unfathomable. It was estimated there were under that number of people alive today. It was yet another example of how strange the old world before the Awakening seemed to people today. Their knowledge of history before the Awakening was incomplete at best. They were only able to find so many books from the past, whether they were digital or physical books. Perhaps if they had a single network connecting them all again they could combine their parts together to create a more complete whole. This had been the vision of many emperors and leaders since then, and each attempt left the ambitious party in ruin. For every visionary there was an equal and opposite leader, with an equal but opposite world view. For every line laid to connect people, another was cut. Even with the same ultimate outcome in mind, there was the question of control. If one group was allowed to connect the world again, they’d own the means of communication, and that was unacceptable. The Sikkas themselves said they wanted to remake the world in the image of itself before the Awakening. They had been the victims of cut wires, and had also cut many themselves. The methods the Sikkas had used had become a trope in history class. To destroy a global economy was straightforward. Destroy the means of productions. Stop all communication. Then murder 9 out of 10 people on the planet. In a few short years, the global economy would evaporate, governments would effectively stop functioning, and society would be forced to adapt for survival. The adaptation would give rise to a gap, a market inefficiency that could be exploited to stand up a new government. Our superpower as a species would be rendered defunct. Without the ability to coordinate people at scale, it was nearly impossible to unite and rule large swaths of lands and people.

Kaiya and her friends walked on, watching their familiar and lush tropical habitat with grounds of fertile soil and rotting foliage give way to a sandy wasteland. From the sky, you could see the clear thinning of trees which gave way to the red sand. They camped on the jungle’s edge, stocking up on water from a nearby river, and drying meat they killed along the way. There would be no more fresh fruit to be picked from the trees once they left the shelter of the forest, and would have to watch out for patrols and cargo planes spotting them as they crossed the sand hills without cover. They heard an engine overhead as they camped and scrambled to put out the fire. The smoke from a small fire wasn’t as visible in the forest. The smoke would be masked by the thick canopy. They had gotten used to its protective cover. The large cargo plane was likely going to a nearby hybrid colony to pick up some new materials. The group didn’t have a trajectory, and seeking the help of one of the colonies seemed a reasonable choice. Without an alliance they risked being killed by another crew, or others scavenging about. They traced the plane as it descended far over the horizon. That’s where they’d go.

A few hundred yards from the protection of the forest, Kaiya’s hand started pulsing. Visibly, nothing had changed, but she felt a distinct throbbing of her hand. Then her hand started pulsing with light, a faint green light, barely visible in the light of day. Shim noticed her wince and came to her. There was nothing to be done, none of them knew what was going on with her hand, nor did they know how to help. The only comfort Shim could provide was her presence. The pain ebbed over time and they carried on. Wran did not speak.

Each day that passed looked like the previous. Nobody walked to the colonies. You either flew or drove. Braving the no man’s land between the forest and the Hybrid territory offered nothing to living creatures save for the sun. After days wandering through the red desert, following the trajectory of the plane that flew by, they heard another plane approaching and took cover by a nearby bush, burying themselves and their gear in the sand the best they could. They were tired, with chapped lips stinging in the wind that kicked up sand into their eyes. They’d be out of water in two days and hadn’t had a full meal since they left the jungle.

They approached another wave of sand dunes after a long, flat stretch. They were terribly exposed as they crossed the dry lakebed. Arryn and Ayala went up ahead to take a look over the top of the first Dune, to check for any trucks or activity they could see. The two topped the Dune and walked out of sight. The crew kept trudging on, and after what seemed like a long time Petr started looking worried.

“They’ve been gone too long,” Petr said through bleeding lips.

“Maybe they found something,” Shim took the optimistic position despite desperately needing shielding from the hot desert sun.

They both looked at Kaiya, who was still struggling with a throbbing hand and was only partially paying attention. When she felt their gaze on her, she looked to Mishu who looked fresh as a flower despite having the poorest equipment compared to the rest. He had seen what was going on.

“Help,” Mishu pointed over the dune, Kaiya nodded, and he cocked his gun, and started running up the dune. He disappeared over the hill. A popping sound died quickly, absorbed by the sand.

Kaiya, Shim, and Petr approached the top of the hill with their weapons out. They looked around and saw nothing as they came over the top. They looked around for signs of Mishu when they were violently ripped to the ground by both bionic and human arms. They struggled to regain their footing, but failed and were again thrown to the ground before they realized what was attacking them.

A bionic woman, with mostly human features save for her large wings looked curiously at the seven of them. She knew they weren’t scavengers, nor did they look like they belonged out here. Mishu’s lifeless body was uncovered by some kind of textile that blended into the sand. Kaiya rushed over to him and placed her hand on his neck to check his pulse. He was gone. Kaiya welled up. Another body in her wake. This was her fault. She turned to attack Soraiya, launching at her like an animal. Another hybrid grabbed her by the shirt and redirected her energy, slamming her into the sand. He grabbed her unconscious body and tossed her over his shoulder.

“I’m Soraiya, welcome to the Dunes,” She said before commanding the ten others with her to walk them to the truck. They were bound, with black hoods pulled over their heads. After being stripped of his gun, Mishu was left right where he fell. The winds picked up and began burying him in yet another unmarked grave in The Dunes.

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