Short: Day 1, Reboot Humanity
This is a short story set in 3613 AD when the ICA's Vanguard ship arrives at Apollyon. This is not, at this time, the cannon start of the actual game but a dramatization of it instead.
The tubes I'd known all my life, all 23 days of it, were growing fewer in number. During the next day, they reduced to just oxygen, nutrients, and waste. My chest trembled at what this might mean.
"Julia," I thought at the computer which was my only companion, "what's happening to me?"
"I'm preparing you for launch Lieutenant Rainer," came the always slightly sardonic voice of the AI. I felt like there was this great joke she was always in on, but wouldn't tell me.
"Launch to where?" I asked.
The idea of leaving the warm gel chamber I'd been born in terrified me. Maybe it thrilled as well. I wasn't old enough to tell the difference yet.
I knew something was up when, the next day, my video feed suddenly switched to nothing but action movies. Clawed aliens and the roar of assault rifles abounded for the next six hours. Then my favorite movie cut off right in the middle of the flamethrower scene. It was a bummer as I'd been getting really pumped up from it.
"External threat detected," Julia said in the more robotic of her tones. "Engaging in emergency deployment."
"WhaaaaaT?!" I thought at her as the warm gel bath around me, my entire existence, started draining out down the floor.
"Threat approaching from the south, distance 500 yards," Julia said.
I couldn't reply, for my breathing tube had just been yanked out of my lungs. My catheter was removed in a much more traumatic fashion. The gel level was only two feet now, not enough to float in. I grabbed the wall as I landed on my feet for the first time in my life.
"Engaging skill maps," Julia said. "Threat approaching. Now at 250 yards. Please stand up straight Lieutenant."
Robotic support arms grabbed me and shoved me upright, pulling my arms wide. From the walls of my chamber, armored suit pieces emerged and were pushed onto my body with frantic speed.
"Threat at 100 yards and closing," Julia said. "Prepare for deployment. Objective, ensure the safety of the core."
I knew the core was Julia and my formerly gel-filled home. An assault rifle emerged from a panel on the wall and was shoved into my hands. I held it in wonder for a moment. Marveling at holding a real, ICA-issued 7.75mm combat rifle. I hoped it had the explosive rounds.
"Threat engaging core," Julia said and the chamber shook from an impact. "Deploying!"
As she said it, a heavy helmet with a wide clear faceplate was slammed down over my head. I looked over the rifle quickly but I was blinded as the front wall of my chamber opened. Bright light, brighter than I could have imagined, blasted away the darkness of my home.
Then a shadow fell across the doorway as a massive lizard stuck its nose around the corner. Sniff sniff sniff. It vanished, causing me to hold my breath. My heart was hammering in my chest. I'd been trained for this in VR. My body was loaded with skill mapping cyberware. I knew how to use the gun.
The light vanished as an enormous lizard, its skin rippling with muscles, surged into the chamber's door. It's knife-like teeth going for me.
"AhhHH!!!!!" I freaked out, jamming the gun at it's snapping mouth and pulling the trigger. Click click click. Nothing happened. No roar of the rifle caused it's head to explode. I'd forgotten the safety! The lizard snapped its mouth down over the barrel of my gun, sheering off the first six inches of it.
Dropping the rifle in a panic, I fled backwards until my back hit the opposite wall of the small room. Metal screeched as the bull-sized lizard crammed itself in after me.
Teeth clashed closed inches from my face-plate. The fate of my gun gave me no illusions about how well my body armor might hold up. Grabbing the pistol that had come with my armor, I managed to get the safety off this time.
I raised the gun but was too quick on the trigger. It bucked in my hand and my first shot hit it in the leg.
The lizard roared in pain, struggling to pack itself in to reach me. It's claws tearing peels of metal off the floor. It's breath fogged up my view as it opened it's mouth wide enough for my head to fit in.
Blam! I couldn't get the mouth shot on account of my head being in the way. Instead, I put the gun to the softer underside of it's jaw and pulled the trigger. Blood exploded in its mouth, plastering my face-plate and blocking my view. No teeth closed down on my head though, so I fired twice more. The lizard jerked and twitched, then fell over. I saw the top of its skull blown open, brain oozing across the floor.
"Threat neutralized," Julia said. "Good job Lieutenant Rainer."
Heaving for air, I sank to the ground. My shaking hands dropped the pistol on the floor. It landed with a splat in the gel and blood mixture coating my home.
"Now that deployment is successful, I have been programmed to tell you Happy Birthday," Julia said, playing a six-second celebration jangle. "According to new colony law, today will now be recorded as your birthday. You are 0 years old."
I shook for a minute more, unable to answer. "What now?" I asked, my voice still trembling. "What do I do now?"
"This chamber is capable of creating people, including copies of yourself," Julia explained. "But I lack the physical materials to build anyone else at this time. In accordance with the reboot procedure, you are advised to establish fortifications sufficient to safeguard the core from local threats as well as supplies to continue your personal operational ability."
I laughed weakly. "You mean I should find food and water?"
"Yes," Julia said, her reading tone broken by a momentary humorous note. "Then you should gather the requisite biological resources so as to create another person. I have 18 individual profiles from which you can choose from. They range in pre-programmed skills that can all help create a new mankind here on Apollyon. I would suggest a female so that manual procreation is an option in the event the core becomes inoperable. You are the last human alive and I am the last means of getting another human. Your primary objective is to prevent the second extinction of your race."
"Right on," I said. "No pressure. Day 1, rebuild humanity."
"So," I said, taking a matter reconfiguration tool from the bent storage locker by the exit of my home. "Isn't Doctor Julia one of the individuals in your selection?"
"Yes, she is," Julia the AI said.
"I think I know where I'll start then," I said.
"Good choice Lieutenant Rainer," Julia the AI replied, her voice rich with approval.
Written by Travis Bach. If you'd like to read more of his fiction, please check out travisbach.net