The air scorches my lungs with metallic corrosion. The skies blackened from the smoke and pollution blanketing the entire world from the new foundries that are being used for some ungodly purposes. The screams of men, women, and children echo across the city in the valley being drowned in the smog, the embers from those factories engulfing the jungles around the city, the oceans and lakes that border the city becoming pits of blackened chemicals that burn everything it runs into. This is the world I call my home, and not too long ago it was considered a paradise. The upper echelons of societies from Sol to even the farthest reaches of Human space would come to explore the jungles and bathe beneath the waterfalls that dot the world, one that gave Ross 128 b a turquoise aura when one came from lightspeed to visit our world. We were wealthy, advanced, and free from the turmoil that engulfed the galaxy after the Collapse of the Union of Federated Solar Systems centuries ago. Despite the neutrality, despite the paradise Ross once was, those days are gone, stolen from us from the wrath of invasion.
The Holy Luytenian Empire, an empire of cyborg religious zealots that seek galactic domination and to cleanse humanity of its sins through becoming a being that is fully one of mechanics, not of flesh. Despite years of preparation, they had come, and they had destroyed us in our entirety. Our grand cities, ruined, the jungles, scorched, and our hopes completely shattered. Not all hope though. The reasoning behind me breathing in the toxic fumes that sting my nostrils and lungs is because there is hope for me. A man had come to my family’s home, or what was left of it, to give us two pieces of information. One; the Luytenian Cyber Catholics were mass converting everyone to cyborgs in those foundries and will not stop until the entire world is converted. This was the fear we all had, and knew that they would eventually come to our home to take us away to those foundries and “baptize” us as they would call it. However, the stranger had a second piece of information that offered a slim sliver of hope. Two; a cyborg sympathetic to our plight is taking refugees aboard his ship to go off world and flee from the Cyber Catholics. Despite the odds of running across the city to the nearest spaceport without getting caught is incredibly unlikely, it was something my family and I did not want to miss out on, as it was better to die trying than to die cowering. The problem was, however, my sisters were too young, my father is an amputee from the invasion, and my mother is sick from the smog affecting her asthma, and she would surely die if she was exposed fully to the toxic air outside. So, I took it upon myself to go, running out despite my family’s objections, because if I do not go, we all will die. So out I went, the air poisoning me with each inhale and causing my legs to fall asleep as I run, out towards the hope of a better tomorrow than the one the Cyber Catholics have in store for us.
Traversing the city at night is the easiest time to conceal myself from any Luytenian that may be wandering the streets looking for the next person to convert in their foundries. However, the streets at night are a dangerous affair now. People will do desperate things to ensure their own survival amidst cataclysm, this goes for me and every survivor left in the city that have not yet been baptized. The ash blanketing around the city as well acts as a thick fog in the night, making visibility near impossible, but also makes breathing that much harder too. We only had a single oxygen mask left in the house, and it is limited on oxygen. Thus, I have to hold my breath while I run street corner to corner, only stopping to breathe in the oxygen from the mask. Ships as well hovered overhead with search lights that pierce through the ash-fog, meaning I have to duck under rubble and hide within ruins to ensure that I am not spotted. The run to the spaceport is about an hour to an hour and a half in distance, but it will be even longer for me because of the necessity to make sure I am not spotted. The longer one is out here, the chances of their survival decreases. Knowing this, knowing full well that I could easily die out here, if not from the Cyber Catholics or starving looters, then the poisonous air itself will do the trick. Despite this, I have to press on, and so I do.
After the second round of patrol ships passed over our street, I quickly ran out of the house and into the streets. My lungs are scorching from me holding in my breath. I run into the nearest alleyway and quickly throw the mask on and take a long, deep breath. I keep repeating the same cycle over and over again, run, hide, breathe, and run again. I managed to leave the suburban ruins with quick haste and made it to the outskirts of the downtown itself. Taking a break, I relax myself underneath an overpass that managed to survive the orbital bombardment during the opening phase of the invasion. Each breath I take with the oxygen mask I cherish, though I wish I had eye goggles or something to cover my eyes because they are burning so bad from the foul air. I take a drink of water from a flask, but I end up inadvertently breathing through my nose, leading to my nostrils feeling like someone gave me a dozen paper cuts running up the inside of my nose, the pain so excruciating it gave me a migraine that felt as if someone was slamming my skull with the fist of a Construction Mech Suit. I poured small drops of water into my nose to ease the burning sensation, but the pain could not go away. I want to scream, I want to cry, but I have to hold back my emotions for my family’s sake.
The city is shrouded in darkness, the commotions that would sing to my ears are now replaced by the gusting of wind and the barking of dogs, a depressive end to a once grand utopia. The pace of my running has significantly slowed down because of how bad my lungs are burning from inhaling the toxic fumes. The more time I waste, the more oxygen I end up using, meaning that I might run out of clean air before I even reach the space port. I ducked into an alleyway to once again inhale oxygen when a red light appeared behind me. I panicked and dove behind a dumpster, looking over to see what it was. Sure enough, it was a cyborg. His eyes shined brightly red as his original eyes were replaced with one that can scan through any sort of obstruction of his vision, his skin appearing perfect but has an elastic look to it, signifying that his body is no longer that of a human. He holds onto a beam rifle, glancing over around his surroundings, aiming it in front of him, searching for someone, searching for me. Two more appeared behind him, one of them having a holomap appear out of the display in his arm. I knew they must have heard me because they are hanging around at the intersection of the two alleyways instead of just continuing forward. I knew I could not hide in the smog because they would just be able to detect my heat signature. If anything, my greatest chance of survival is just to stay where I am and not make any sort of movements. They split up between the three different alleyways, meaning now I only have one of them to deal with. I held the knife my mother gave me tightly against my chest, the knife that was specially made to be able to pierce mechanical skin. The humming of his heat sensor eye became ever more audible as he slowly crept up towards where I am hiding, rifle raised in front of him. I could hear the cybernetics cranking with each step now, he is almost on top of me. Right when I heard him step right next to me, I lunged out of my corner and went to stab him. He covers his head with his arm and the knife got lodged into his wrist. He swung his arm, throwing me against the dumpster, and raised his rifle to my head. This is how I will die, I am sure of it. Just before he pulled the trigger, a red beam of light shrieked from one of the roofs of the buildings and shot a hole clear through his head, wires and blood spewing out of his head.
“Run kid, run!” the shadowy sniper yelled towards me.
“They definitely heard that shot, and there will be more Luytenians on us at any moment, so go!”
I sprinted out of the alleway and ran as fast as I could. The spaceport was still about 2c miles from me, but I did not lead up, I left the oxygen mask on my face so I can just keep running. I could hear the distant sounds of beam rifles crackling, red lights appearing from the smog behind me. Hoverships strapped with search lights appeared just a minute after my encounter at the alleyways, the lights piercing through the smoke. I kept running until a squad of Luytenians appeared from the fog, and began firing at me. I quickly ducked and ran into the alleway to my right and ran straight ahead, with them following my tail. I managed to jump over a fence while the heat of the beams sizzled the hair from my arms from how close they were to hitting their target. The Luytenians shouted after me, cutting the fence apart with wrist sabres. I darted to my left into the next alleway and ran down there. The whirring of engines was creeping up on me now too as the Hoverships made their way to my location. I made a right down another alleway, the lights of the Hovership becoming more visible and closer to spotting me, while the red light coming from the heat sensing eyes can be seen on the ground not too far away from me. I am not ready to die, not when my family needs me the most right now. I made it back onto the main street, lights are now visible in the distance. I see the space port! I have almost made it. Still, the Cyber Catholics were not too far behind. I kept sprinting, running out of fresh oxygen. I force myself to breathe in the putrid chemical air, my nostrils starting to bleed from the chemical burns. The lights turned into an outline of something big, and then the outline turned into a ship! There was a guy waiting for me, he appeared to be the sniper because he was holding a large rifle on his back. I can hear him shouting but can barely understand what he is saying, but I knew he was yelling for me to run faster. I finally reached the ship and saw the person who is saving me, a cyborg with half of his face fully showing the cybernetics that lie beneath the rubbery skin, a mechanical skull.
“I am glad you made it kid, we got to get off world now!” he said to me, the whirring of his mouth processing him speaking audible.
“I have family too that I need to save, please we have to get to them!”
“Kid, we don’t have time, we either leave now or you don’t leave at all!”
“I can’t leave them!”
He sighed and looked at me with his beaming red eyes and said, “Then you leave me no choice.”
A hot red flash blinded my eyes, and I felt myself falling. I could not stand up, I could not feel my right leg. I looked and there was nothing there, my leg had been vaporized.
“I’m sorry, but they will dismantle me or put a program inside my head to enslave me if I get caught. I hope you can understand.”
He ran into his ship, and quickly took off. The Luytenians shortly arrived where I laid, I tried to crawl away but they simply crushed my hand with their foot, I screamed from the pain, which caused me to blackout.
I woke up held against the wall with magnetic restraints on my wrists and legs. My vision is now red, with numbers and words flashing in front of me. My body is hotter than normal, with the whirring sounds of cooling systems running throughout my body to keep the new cybernetics implanted in me from overheating. I could not move any of my limbs, I seemingly have forgotten how to move. The wall moves out, expanding until I am in the middle of a room, and my body is tilted so my back is facing the wall. I tried to scream, but nothing came out. A sharp object appeared out of the ceiling, aiming right towards my temple. Everything in my body is screaming for me to flee, but I am paralyzed. I simply watch as the needle pierces my temple, and begins slicing deeper and deeper into my skull.
I am now fully operational, I have been saved by the Prophet X. The sin that has tainted my body for so long stripped away from me as I now bear no sin, as machines cannot sin. The Prophet’s message beams in my head and I rejoice in the comfort he provides me. God willing, the galaxy shall hear of his glory.
“Exoplanet-Catalog – Exoplanet Exploration: Planets beyond Our Solar System.” NASA, NASA, https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/exoplanet-catalog/7222/ross-128-b/#:~:text=Ross%20128%20b%20is%20a,discovery%20was%20announced%20in%202017. (On the environment of Ross 128 b)
The Cyborg of the Future Looks Just like You.” UNSW Sites, https://www.unsw.edu.au/news/2022/09/the-cyborg-of-the-future-looks-just-like-you-. (How cyborgs would appear).