Fiction: Dark expedition


#1

The darkness enveloped the cave, the damp blood and smoke soaked air drifting outside, I could see the last sparks of light drift away into the overgrowth. The small fire light at the entrance would only last me a few more hours, they will find me then, even now I can hear them outside the cave, breathing grasping for the small bits of my blood drifting through the air. The flames shall only guard me for so long, yet the bleeding wound wrapped in the dirty cloth won’t save me, even if I survive their assault, the weapons are deprived of any ammo, only but a few shots remain as the rifle lies uselessly away from me, only the small fire arm at my side is still of any use. My helmet had already been lost weeks ago, the armor torn and shredded, as though I just crawled out of a fist fight with a freaking bear in the hills. My left eye is already going blind, if I don’t do anything I will die pointlessly, yet the only thing at my side is this small box. I think Jerom called it a Walking Man, doesn’t look like a man, just some weird box with a tape inside, I think Gregory had one of them, he used to say that they were records. So perhaps I can at least record the last few hours of my life, what an uplifting thought that is, for the dying, the deprived and the damned. After fiddling around, I figured out how it worked, I don’t think its going to last long so what do I record? perhaps a heart felt message, like anyone would care. Maybe a story of some sort, that would be a waste of a relic, might as well just report on the mission, at least I can give the last few respects to my team.

This is a recount of mission Salvation, we we’re sent out to investigate the new continent, in the northern region, at least that’s what they called it, we were supposed to travel north and cross the “ocean” to reach the land beyond. After that we are to explore and report whether its a good location to host a new settlement. What a load of crap that was, the twelve of us were sent out supposedly to a safe region to a long hike, but what we found was a dead land, polluted, corrupted, twisted and abhorrent. We traveled for a whole year on foot and now I am recording this as the final survivor of my group, During these last hours I shall recant my journey and explain our situation and the deaths of my comrades.
At the beginning we were geared for no more then a 8 week journey, we rationed our food, ammo and tools, all of us were seasoned survivors, exploring the wastes, our group consisted of 2 snipers, Jerom and Furr. Jer was a well seasoned scavenger, he survived this long by not being stupid, if something goes wrong you needed to cover your tracks to survive, and he was good at it. Jerom lived through the years to a grey age when his body began to weaken he took up the rifle to deal with the freaks and ghouls that wondered in. Furr on the other hand is what you’d expect, a fur bag, can’t really tell if he’s a dog or something, but the scope suits him well, the guy bagged us more food during the darker phase of our “Expedition”. Then there was Halor she was our medic, skilled with a knife, honestly almost chopped Garys balls off when he got drunk. Witch brings us to him, Gar was a loud mouthed son of a scag that would always cause us trouble, but during the long journey his attitude kinda grew on us. He was good gunner with a love for his shot guns, though that blew his brains out a couple of months ago. Then there were the twins Kin and Kon we lost them mid way during an encounter with the religious ghouls, those nuts caught us half way through our escape and they chose to stay behind to allow us to get away. They were almost inseparable, both were mutants, looked like Prairie Dogs, at least that’s how Gregory explained it, they were skilled with silent weapons, those paws helped I guess. Witch brings us to our elder Greg, he was a talented fixer, kept our gear running and working, even though he always kept staring at those books of his, said he was reading, though I later learned he couldn’t read a word in them, was some other language supposedly. We also had 2 bots with us, junk bot and sh%t bot, both were in charge of labor work, though if it wasn’t for them, we would have died in several occasions, we lost them both during an incident in the cavern, they were sadly crushed, Gregory carried sh%t bots head for a few days before tossing it over a ridge. We also had a scout Raw, he was a bird mutant, luckily he bothered learning how to fly and could search the area ahead, we lost him rather early on, the bloody bastards shot him down in the undergrowth, poor b@stard managed to take out a few of them in a last ditch effort. Then there was Sam she was our jack of all trades, mixed and matched wherever she could get her hands in, she was the last to go before me, talented gal that one, just never applied herself. Thus lastly there was me, Frank, with a face like a sh%t house and a body to match, my only few quirks made my skin tougher and my talent with a gun better, sadly that didn’t save my sorry @ss. That is the short of our roster and as soon as we all were gathered we were kicked out to the northern lands, whether we liked it or not.


#2

The flames sparked as the large branches broke and my few hours dwindled on, I was constantly running out of time, the infected wound wouldn’t kill me, but the end was in clear sight. I had to carry on my message, my final report.

The briefing of the first few weeks is as it should be, short and simple, we explored a known area, we scavenged a few scraps of weapon parts and scrap, leaving catches for our search parties that would be out in this areas, we used Gregory’s old markings the ghouls and waste rats wouldn’t be able to get to the drops. We only took what was necessary for us, a few med’s, some parts and a few broken equipment pieces. The twins managed to improve their tools, they constantly slept together, balled up for warmth, at the same time they would keep watch together as well, we cycled the guard duties, so that everyone got at least some rest. The bots were always carrying our gear, part of that mechanical endurance, no point in us getting tired.
There were few changes till we reached the ridge, the mountains that bordered our zone. It was within this valley that we were safe, the freaks and other scabs wouldn’t cross it, honestly, nether would we. The frozen tops of this mountain range were the only passages to cross, there was a massive cave with a metal worm thing in it, the elders said it was a “digger”, something that built tunnels. Wish it would have finished its job so we wouldn’t have had to climb that thing, but if it did, we would probably never see the end of the scabs crawling out from the dead lands. Perhaps it was a blessing, it was week 3 of our journey that got us there, we thought it would only take a week to get over it. We were such fools, crossing a frozen land with no clue of the hardship, we were under prepared. Some of us almost froze to death up there. The bots were of little use, they would stone up and barely move, we had to drag them half the way. In the end our journey took 3 weeks over the mountain, we were forced to dig snow caves, live in the ice to avoid the winds, the girls and Furr slept with the twins to keep warm, the rest of us ran out of alcohol in the middle of week 2, and were barely breathing when we got down from there. Halor thought she’d have to saw my leg off, it didn’t look good, but Gregory shoved it in the fire, I almost ringed his neck for it, but it saved me the trouble, even though I had to use a stick, for a few days to walk. We spent our first week outside the frost peaks recovering, warming up and taking stock. Seven weeks in and we were running out of supplies, our gear was not in the best condition, our med’s were low even after all the scavenging in the beginning, for that one week we ate whatever Furr could catch, it was soup and fried meats for a while till we recovered from the track. We moved slowly during that time, just fast enough to not get tired and keep moving, we were now in new lands, the dead lands, the undergrowth covered the verge of our sight, we couldn’t travel farther away from the mountains without risking our own safety, we stayed in broken structures and river sides to recoup our losses. By week 8 we were self sufficient, hunting, scavenging and mapping our course, the bots were back up and working, we could recover, but we could never go back now. To regain the supplies to track through that mountain again, would take us months. We were now cut off, that was our moment of dawn, our realization, that this was a suicide mission, that it was unlikely we would go back. I honestly regretted not burning all those supplies we gathered and left those b@stards, we traveled here to help our kin, but were destined to die outside our homes. I hoped they would all burn.


#3

The light of the flames sparked before me as the time dwindled, a howl emanated from the dark void beyond my little crevice of a sanctum. I knew they were fully aware of where I am, and it didn’t make it anymore frightening, yet it even felt more comforting knowing that my end was surely closer then I expected. I only hoped I could finish my final report before what little time was left faded into the night.

It was week 9 day 2 that we began properly moving once more, most superficial wounds and remainders of frostbite were dealt with, even my foot while still aching from the improvised medical theories of scavengers was somewhat forgetful, yet that sweet pain was rather pleasant compared to the frozen mountain track. We soon reached a ruin of a former settlement, it was a small town with a few large collapsed buildings, yet digging through we managed to find some useful stuff, until we reached that large structure, a building that had the somewhat collapsed name of a “Scool”, Gregory said they were known as Schools places of learning for the young, although we wondered how useful they were until the collapse. This was the only structure that held together to some extent.
Inside we found a few rooms that seemed to have been used by survivors in the first decades, yet everything was already torn, molded and rotted away. Furr said it was the worst thing he smelled in years, even the twins didn’t want to go near those rooms, I guess that comes with their mutation, partly animal they sensed the smell and sound better but sadly since some of us were more human we had the short stick of going through the cesspool riddled rooms while they checked the other parts. We couldn’t have doc go through them, since no one would let her touch them afterwards, so she was excluded with the bots to keep an eye on the entrance, and our bird boy was still scouting the town so we were kinda stuck with the rooms, Gregory took a small area filled with some old equipment since he could figure out whats useful, the rest of us paired off and checked the inhabited rooms. Mostly we came out with nothing except a few scraps of still useful fabrics or metal bits or wires, During my hour long dig, I found a little plastic picture, I think they were called photos, there was a small boy clinging to a woman and a few other kids in the back. I guess ghosts of the past still dreaming of the easy life they had. After that we all gathered in a safe room to spend the night, for some reason I could still feel that the people were there like fading memories, hoping to survive.
The next day we left the small town and followed a highway to the nearest settlement, it was a days journey without sleep, and once more we were in a small town fallen into ruins and abandoned, it was there that we camped for a bit before moving ahead, we had to settle down anywhere we could hunt for a bit to stock up on food, since the bots would manage to carry most useless stuff, we had to spend the night in shifts, one person keeping watch, another cooking the remainder of the catch to preserve it on our next stretch. Luckily the bounty was big enough to last us for a few days until we could settle down again, during that night I was on watch while doc cooked the meet, frying it with some herbs the twins found, while half of us were skilled with survival skills, there were a bunch that have been better suited with weapons and maintenance. She told me during the night that her supplies have been growing smaller, we would run out of medicine if we wouldn’t reach some sort of cash in any of the towns.
“Easier said then done, most large places in these days have already been scavenged, cities I believe they were called, at least that’s what Gregory said, I don’t know nor care much for what they were, their all ruins now. We have a better chance looking for herbs or smaller structures we could search.”
“Yes, but we haven’t seen any signs of other survivors here, what if the settlements haven’t been searched?”
“True, it might reveal whether there are any folk living here, but mutants and ghouls are everywhere nowadays, we need to be cautious of traps. Gregory said the signs we passed pointed to an old settlement in the farther east, it reaches beyond the forest, we would be exposed, but I suppose currently we need to look for details.”
We talked a little more but next morning after discussing it with everyone we agreed that checking a large “City” was a good idea, we could skirt around it and check the outside area for any resources. Thus at the end of week 9 we set off to the nearest ruins to look for more information about this dreadful land.


#4

As the fire billowed my chest began to rupture as a blood filled cough expunged from my jaws, with a gasping voice, I drank a gulp of fresh air and spat out the irony fluid from my mouth and sat back, wiping my face with the elbow of my arm holding the recorder.

At the start of week 10 we were wandering the stone roads leading towards the ruins. along the way broken metal boxes called “Cars” littered the path, we managed to luckily dig out some useful things, a few boxes of medical supplies, a few bundles of scrap we could use, yet we tossed the unnecessary stuff aside into a large one of those boxes and continued, Gregory found something called gas, he was very astonished, though soon his joy fluttered away cause he found it already useless, it was a rather abhorrently smelling liquid, seemed rather odd and when he tried lighting it, it just sparked and fleeted away, so he just sighed and left it there, luckily we found some oily tins we could use for tools and fires. though I have no clue what he’d want the gas for. Going though the streets we had to make a move towards woods during the late hours, closer to the undergrowth spreading through the land, we made camp on the second day that week after we saw the edge of the ruin in the distance, it was safer then risking the exposed grounds ahead.
During our first day exploring the ruins we found little of value, some old structures, scraps and tools, seemingly the place wasn’t entirely searched or simply ignored at this point. It was hard to reach a conclusion since some argued that even we didn’t search the ridge of our territory back home. During that night we found a forested area near the city to camp at, we still kept two people on guard duty. The last thing any of us wanted was to wake up to a gang of ghouls ripping us apart.
The week carried on as we searched the city for any clue of other scavengers here. Until the fifth day, we then found a tunnel entrance, leading down by stairs into the dark. Gregory searched his notes as we checked the area to make sure we were unnoticed by prying eyes, till finally he exclaimed it was a “Subway” I suppose it meant some underground passage. We settled in the building nearby and prepared to explore while the others stayed guard by the entrance. Gregory stood firm that he was going, I joined him and took Jerom, Gary and Sam while the others kept an eye out. Luckily Raw’s wings helped him keep a high ground, most of the ruins were still somewhat standing, and he managed to use a tall structure across from the tunnel to keep watch down the road that the others wouldn’t be able to see.
Once down bellow we used a flashlight to guide ourselves, most of it was crumbling but held fast, it was rather astonishing, to thing the old times built this to last so long. There were a few rooms filled with rotten stuff covered in dust. But it was down in the bowels of that place that I saw the strangest things, tunnels, filled with these tracks and metal worms along them like dead snakes dried and cold with the dust keeping them warm. Wat came next wasn’t much of a shock, these dark damp places were breeding grounds, perfect nests for mutants, it first took us by surprise when Gar checked the farther corner alone, the bleeding scag got him by the arm as he screamed, waking more of those filthy things from their cruel slumber, I guess when you sleep in the dark hole it maters little if its day or night, they began crawling out of windows, ducts and edges, we had to slowly push back, by blasting them with what ammunition we had left. After climbing the stairs, Sam tossed a few bundles down the path at them setting the whole pit aflame by the entrance, so luckily we bolted out and rejoined the others. We restocked what little we could gather from the surrounding area and decided to move farther into the ruins in hopes that those things wouldn’t find us, it wasn’t the best choice but a trek to the forest was too long we had to get to a safe location fast. Mutant nests tend to have limited areas and we wanted out of that one. I asked Sam later what she tossed in that time, she told me about her little meddling with the oil and rubber we found so she built a somewhat fire bob that doubled as a smoke screen for escapes. In all honesty it saved us back then, if the rest of the nest would have followed us we would have been doomed back then, though it doesn’t make much of a difference now I guess.

[Apologies I’ll carry on for now and we’ll see how it goes]


#5

The fires laping warmth at my feet, the caves darkness and loneliness. Time is slowly drifting out in between my fingers, I must record our last futile mission.

Towards the end of week 10 we moved towards the depths of the ruins, we found ourselves in a bone filled chard mess. The buildings were burnt and crumbled away long ago, only black stones remained, on a far wall we found banners telling of plagues and death. The ancients died out in this place long ago, among the ashy grounds and rocks, we saw bones and remains of those that dwelled there once. At the side of it all was a large metal structure, similar to some settlements we saw earlier, but all collapsed and abandoned.
We searched the area and found that the place in fact was a survivor ark, but they all fled, by the looks the mutated creatures beneath the ground had overpopulated and forced them out. Luckily they didn’t take everything with them, we found several tools and weapons lying around, after securing a small crevice under the building we settled in for some rest and to discuss our situation.
“Those things apparently had spread throughout the ruins and forced the survivors to flee.” Furr remarked pondering about the chance of finding them.
“Most likely they didn’t notice the creatures until the hive reached their settlement, the mutants must have struck by night, living in the tunnels they’re probably night walkers” Halor explained as she scraped through the supplies looking for some food.
“Then they probably know about this place?”
“I recon they do sister.” the twins exchanged their concerns as they settled in for the night.
“We probably wont find a trail of the folks from here since they left so long ago” Raw noted as he returned from setting up traps.
“We may try locating some tracks they would have left from camps or signs of their location, by now we can only assume that they aren’t south or west.” Gregory argued as he tinkered with junk bot, the machine men were always breaking down, we had to scavenge parts to constantly repair them.
“So what, we go north and east till we find them, we can’t go back to the valleys and we can’t stay here, for all we know there are ghouls out there and mutants here. We are currently fraged and ducked to no end.” Sam proclaimed.
“Then we just have to start moving, we can’t stay here, Raw tomorrow you’ll get as high as possible and scout out whether there are any traces of camps, settlements or ruins in other directions, we’ll set off in the most promising one and hope for the best that it ain’t some ghoul camp.” I offered a solution for them and due to the fact that no one disagreed we followed it, I wonder if someone would have shot me back there, would they still be alive.


#6

Frank sat there wondering, what color was Halors hair, it seemed so long that he hadn’t seen her, was she long haired or short. The blood pooling out made it hard to focus, so gritting his teeth he continued the report.

Next morning Raw rose above the ruins and scanned the area, those bird eyes were a bonus for him. Though I asked why not just use a sniper riffle from up above, he didn’t have fingers of course, but those talons could pull the trigger and why the heck not. Well apparently when I asked him, he complained that the blow back from the rifle would make aiming pointless and since he used his hands to fly with the feathers, he said there was no way to grip the rifle in flight. Since I coulnd’t quite understand his point, I guessed the crux of it was, since you don’t have feathers ya don’t know sh%t your talking about. So I let it be and we carried on. Raw noticed a path cleared through the road out of town up north and bent over to the west.
Following it we made our way through the wreckage’s, Jer came up to me and mentioned that the cars had seemingly been looted some time ago, I asked if it seemed as long as the settlement ruins we passed, his response was that it was more recent then that. This sparked a bit of hope, there could be some stalkers searching the ruins or nearby areas.
We tread on for several days camping in wooded brush near the undergrowth to conceal the lights from the fire as it was taking some time to reach our next stop I joined Furr in the hunt, compared to a beast mutant I was rather poorly suited for it, I scared the prey off a few times while he could easily creep in to several feet from it to even pounce it with a blade. I just had to conclude close range combat was not my forte, and yet I regret that choice like the night I chose to come to this forsaken land.
Next morning we made our way towards the next ruins, before that we found a crumbled structure at the side of the road with some lettering on it, I wondered what would the ancients have to write in the middle of nowhere. That’s when I heard Jer and Raw call us over to it. We left The bots and twins by the road so they could keep an eye out for any uninvited guests. Bird boy pointed at some ruble as he explained.
“Bullet marks, there was a shootout here.”
“How fresh is it?” Halor asked.
“Not that fresh, the fight was at least several days ago the markings had been washed by rain and we hadn’t seen any for at least a while. The ruble was used as cover while the others came out of the forest and attacked them, by the looks of it I’d say the others were ghouls since the weapons used seem rather poor. But the ones they attacked seem to be survivors.” Furr explained as he checked the surrounding on all fours lowering himself closer to the ground, tracking the marks and scents.
“So they were dragged off?” Sam asked as she checked the rocks of the crumbled sign.
“Seemingly yes, but to where?” Gregory spoke with a hint of concern.
“Something on your mind old timer” I asked.
“I’m wondering if the ghouls here managed to organize and establish a group of their own, if they managed to capture stalkers that is truly cause for alarm.” He explained.
“Yet we have no clue where to, we should head towards the ruins and check if there are any signs there, other wise this rubble is a rather obvious landmark we can track back to.” Raw spoke as he checked the treeline ahead.
And thus we went into the wretched lands to only later find the folly of our mistakes.


#7

The wind howled outside as the hounds gathered, sniffing and tempting the licking flames. As they waited for their time Frank used the last of his to imprint the small device in his hands with the memories he still held.

At the beginnings of week 11 we reached a ruins of a city that stood half a days march from the signpost of a structure we left behind. Here we found nothing but the abandoned and sifted remnants of the ancients. The places were unmoved for centuries, no trace of a caravan that would have passed through. Furr and Raw took charge of exploring the fractured remains and seeking out any traces of the settlement. While Halor and Gregory set up for a camp, Sam and Garry patrolled the area looking for any mutants that would have a chance to break in on our small encampment. The bots settled for a while while Jer covered back to check for any hidden trails. While the twins and I went further into the ruins to check for any useful locations we could search while here.
In a few hours the whole group reconvened and discussed their findings, in my groups case there were little supplies around, this place was clearly used as a scavenging site and most stuff on the ridge that was within reach was already picked clean. Jer said he found a few old roads to some off side structures but aside a few supplies that he brought back there wasn’t much else. Sam And Garry found pretty much the same as the twins and me and returned first as a defense support for the group. Gar started some annoying crap about this all being a dead end and pointless. That’s till we heard out the last two scouts of our group, they found some old large building near the center of the place called “Hel” it was a tower like structure that was still holding up and seemed to be partially unpillaged. Furr said it was mostly avoided due to the ruble blocking the way, but we could get through on the farther side. Most of us agreed as long as it wasn’t a tunnel we could take a look.
We prepared that evening to go scavenging the place and moved the camp into the ruins behind walls and a roof we were feeling much safer and went through an hours debate on who would go. Finally we decided to draw straws and see what comes, Luckily I was among the group who would go, along came Garry, Furr and Halor, Gregory demanded to be part of the team to search the structure. After a while it was concluded that the five of us would set of in the morning, we made arrangements for what the others would do if we wouldn’t come back, or if one of us would go missing. It was natural to prepare for the worst, if someone would separate from the team, he would reconvene with the others by the main entrance and await their arrival. If we would fail to come back, the rest of the group would stay there for two more nights and them head back to safer locations, Jerom said that the few buildings he found off to the side paths were save and desolate enough to provide shelter for them for a while.