Ancestral *NaNoWriMo Entry*

This science fiction novel will be set among a variety of post-apocalytic/future worlds where the protagonist Charlie is trying to find the origins of his home and existence. In each world Charlie takes on a different form. In each chapter, Charlie meets his nemisis 'C'. C is determined to kill Charlie, but why? In each world the mysterious ancestral symbol appears to confuse and tantalise Charlie (and the reader). Will Charlie survive? Why is C trying to kill him? Can one exist without the other?
****** Our class is writing this******

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4. Wasteland

The air was stale and tasted of foul fumes, possibly industrial. Charlie gagged at the horrible stench. He rolled over onto his side and blinked a few times to rid his eyes of the tears that were forming there. His chest still hurt from the bullet even though the wound had miraculously disappeared. Also, his hands seemed to be calloused and covered in bleeding scratches and bruises. If all his new bodies looked like this he really needed to have a doctor nearby. Slowly, Charlie rose to his feet and grabbed onto a nearby pole as he almost collapsed again. He felt like throwing up as he usually did. Wherever he was didn't help matters. On either side of him was this great expanse of dried up grass littered with broken chunks of metal and peppering the vast plain were small concrete buildings with barb-wire fencing and giant chimneys poking out the sides. Charlie took a deep breath, realised that it was a horrible mistake and wretched until his throat felt red raw. He shook himself and began to look for something reflective. A nearby oil spill provided him with a mirror. The murky black liquid distorted his features but Charlie was sharp enough to see that he had short red hair tied up into a ponytail, gray-blue eyes and that weird mark inked onto his forehead. He still didn't know whether it was a fish or not with its crude edges.

“What're you doing out here?”

Charlie jumped and almost tipped forward into the oil. Her arms flailed a bit before a rough hand pulled her back. She smiled nervously at whoever it was that had saved her. “Yes?” Charlie asked.

“Ma'am,” the woman corrected. She had a weird mark on her cheek that formed a lion. “Why are you not at your post?”

“Sorry I don't understand,” Charlie frowned. This new found squeaky voice was annoying no end.

“Your post, Charlie. It's almost sun-set. Hurry up or we'll both be fired.”

“O-of course. Ma'am,” Charlie said.

With that the lady spun on her heels and stomped off. Charlie decided to call her 'Ma'am' because that was, apparently, what she liked to be called. She turned back to the barren wasteland. There were a few traces of dead trees and some dried up river beds. What are they doing here? She scratched his head and then realised something. She turned. Behind her sat the biggest building Charlie had ever seen. It had barb wire coating the edges of the roof and smoke curling out of a vent. Walking along balconies were men, women and teenagers alike with dangerous looking dogs that had razor sharp fangs. “Oh my gosh!” Charlie said. Her eyes kept wandering as he entered the complex. Milling around inside was an even greater number of people- all in camouflage gear and not a smile between them. “Wow, I feel welcome,” Charlie added.

“It is not your job to feel welcome.” A dog-like creature snarled at him. She couldn't tell its gender but the dog had messy black hair that hung over a tattoo on its forehead in the shape of a horse made up of the same crude jagged lines Charlie's was. “What're you doing anyways, Charlie?”

“I-I was...um...what are you?” Charlie asked.

The dog glared apprehensively at her. “Rub it in why don't you? I'm Rikki. The last Hominis Cane. Werewolf you might say.”

Charlie cocked her head to one side. “What're everyone else then?”

Rikki shrugged. “Apparatus Populo. Machine people. They're all cyborgs even you. Now explain to me again why you aren't at your post.”

Look, I must've bumped my head so I have no idea what's happening or where I am,” Charlie lied. It was partially lying mind you since he really had no idea where he was.

Rikki sniffed the air around them. “You're telling the truth. Right, well, I'll have to show you around then. You probably don't remember where we are do you?”

Charlie shook her head.

Welcome to Wasteland, Charlie. This is The Compound and our job is to kill all the remaining humans from the great apocalypse,” Rikki said.

Charlie gulped. She'd know if she was part machine, which she wasn't and listening to that made her feel even warmer and fuzzier (note the sarcasm). “Right. Well. I'd like to know where my post is for a start.”

Rikki smiled and clapped a paw onto her back. “You are positioned in the First Console where you keep watch on everything. And if a human heat signature gets on the radar. BOOM! You hit them with a blast of energy that will stop their body's systems in ten seconds flat so their death is relatively painless.” He snickered. “It's fun watching their bodies implode.”

Implode?” Charlie squeaked.

We can't just have dead bodies all over the place. It would stink!” Rikki took hold of her hand and headed towards an open door at the other side of huge entrance hall. “Through there is where you work. Charlie are you okay? You look pale.”

I'm okay,” Charlie lied again. Then when Rikki had his back turned Charlie let go of his hand and promptly threw up on the clean floor. She really had to stop doing that.

 

The First Console was a room painted completely silver with black furniture and at least ten thousand mini screens playing footage from outside on the walls. Cyborgs were typing away at a long desk that stretched around the whole room. There was no carpet on the floor except for a soft springy mat that said 'home sweet home' on it. Ma'am looked up sharply upon entrance. She surveyed Rikki in obvious disgust and then went back to work.

Right,” Rikki said. “This is the place I was telling you about. You basically have the best and easiest job here. All you have to do is sit here all day. So I'll leave you to it.”

Wait, where do you think you're going?” Charlie asked. She grabbed hold of Rikki's arm.

Back to work. I have a job you know.” Rikki turned and scurried off.

Charlie took a deep breath and sat down in a spare chair. In front of her were so many buttons she didn't know what to do with them. There was a normal computer key board but on either side of it where so many others that were all different shapes and sizes. There was also a head-piece on the bench. It looked like it looped around the back of your head and over your ears with a small microphone that hung infront of your mouth and a cord with a metal pin on it that should insert...Charlie gaped at her work colleagues. It connected into your head. The pin was supposed to go in your head.

Put it in then,” Ma'am said bluntly.

Charlie didn't reply. “I can't.”

And why not?” Ma'am leered over her with a menacing air. She picked up the head-piece and shoved it into Charlie's hands.

Gingerly, Charlie began to pull it over her head when an alarm went off. The intense tapping of keyboards became even louder as the ear piercing screech echoed around the room. Ma'am's jaw clenched.

What now, Soarven?” Ma'am yelled.

Soarven, a young man with glasses, shook his head. “The radar says there's body heat radiating from near the vicinity but I can't see anything from the screens. What about everyone else?!”

Everyone shook their heads too.

Well, we can't have a human in here because we're not human,” Ma'am concluded.

Charlie's hand tightened on the arm rest of her chair till the knuckles turned a deadly shade of milky blue. “How about I go check the security cameras in the, um, the hall?”

Ma'am sneered. “There's no security cameras in there.”

Oh.” Charlie stood up and made a dash for the door. Behind her she could hear Ma'am ordering people to do this and that.

AFTER THE HUMAN!” Ma'am bellowed.

With her heart pounding against her rib-cage Charlie tried frantically to undo the door but the bolt had been locked and she needed a code which she didn't have to open it. Breath after breath wasted the energy Charlie needed to pry to door with her hands. The creak of chairs being pushed back brought to her attention that all the others had stood and where watching her. “Open,” Charlie said. “Come on! Open please!”

When the sound of metal grinding against metal reached her ears and the door swung open Charlie could've cried with relief. Rikki was staring at her with wide eyes. He shoved her out and slammed the door shut. “Run,” Rikki whispered.

Now, being chased by Cyborgs was scary enough just thinking about it but escaping with a werewolf was even weirder. Rikki grabbed her hand and dragged her along with his canine legs pumping up and down. As his grip began to slacken he fell forward onto all fours and started running like that. Charlie stumbled for a few steps before regaining her balance and picking up speed.

What on earth happened in there? The alarm was like BEEP BEEP and everyone was like what's happening? And why were they saying, Get her?” Rikki puffed. Sweat was beginning to mingle in his brown hair.

You know how the radar detects humans?” Charlie breathed. Her legs and lungs were already burning from the effort. “Well, I'm human. And now I'm a wanted girl.”

They'd reached the wasteland. The hot, tainted air didn't help matters in the breathing department at all. A thick fog was descending from the sky, possibly a consequence from all the pollution. Rikki's tongue was lolling out of his mouth and his heavy exhales of air sounded very dog-like.

Where to now?” Charlie peered at the horizon. There was just more compounds. Nothing else it seemed.

There's the city. Where humans find refuge from the Cyborgs,” Rikki managed. He propped himself onto his two back feet. “I was there before I somehow managed to get here. That's why I'm helping you, you know? It's personal.”

Charlie almost squealed from the excitement (her girlish tendencies were starting to really bug her). “So there are other humans?” Charlie asked.

Sort of. I'm not so sure about now...it's been a while since I was there. Ten to fifteen years. I'm around twenty five now so...yeah. Fourteen years.” Rikki's pace was faltering as they raced across the sparse, dried up grass. He had pulled out a water bottle from his belt and was gulping it down like there was no tomorrow. The industrial fumes must've been making it really hot for his fur.

Charlie wished she had water too but then again she didn't want to know what was in that water. She wasn't sure if it was good for humans or not. By now, it seemed the Cyborgs had stopped chasing them. “They've stopped chasing us,” Charlie grinned triumphantly.

It's because it's out of their territory,” Rikki stated. “They never go out here.” He skidded to a halt. “Where's the Safe Haven?”

Let me guess. That's where we're going?” Charlie couldn't help wonder why they were killing humans in the first place.

Yeah. But I don't understand. They must've moved camp,” Rikki huffed.

Right.” Charlie knelt down and put her hand to the ground. She had no idea what she was doing. “They're following us.”

But they never-”

Not the Cyborgs, Rikki. Humans. They've found us.”

A cold metal pressed harshly against Charlie's back. It felt sharp and if they pressed any harder it would leave her with a nasty gash in her back. Rikki had a gun pointed at his skull. Charlie wanted to glimpse who their attackers were and jumped back from the blade.

Don't move!” a voice ordered sharply.

Charlie stifled a laugh. The voice belonged to a short boy with short cropped blonde hair. His marking was...he didn't seem to have one. She couldn't believe he was threatening a werewolf and a person twice the size of him.

I don't understand,” Rikki said. “These aren't humans.”

Now that he mentioned it Charlie could see that they were surrounded by what looked like humans but their blank eyes gave it all away.

Probably rogue Cyborgs. Banished or something,” Charlie said.

Rogue Cyborgs?” Rikki growled at the gunman.

Just a guess.”

Are you rogues too?” the short boy asked.

Charlie shrugged. “I guess. But I'm not a Cyborg if that's what you're thinking.”

The boy did a quick flick of the wrist and all the weapons were lowered. “You can't be human,” the boy sniffed. “I'm the last human in this wasteland. Are you a trick or something?”

No,” Charlie said slowly.

Follow us then.”

Charlie and Rikki were shoved forward as the group began trudging towards the emptiness infront of them. When the hour mark had passed Charlie's steps were labouring due to unfit condition. She leant on Rikki who seemed to be having similar problems.

My name's Cade by the way. I'm in charge of the Safe Haven,” the boy said without looking at them.

I'm Charlie,” Charlie replied.

Cade stiffened but continued walking. His hand pulled out a mobile device from his pocket. “I just need to call someone. The Safe Haven needs to know we've got two newbies.” He dialled and said something into the receiver before smiling and facing Charlie. “They're waiting.”

Without knowing what happened a big campus just seemed to pop up out of nowhere. There were tents spread around a giant fire-place. There was also one small concrete building sitting in a corner that had bathrooms written on the wall.

They've renovated,” Rikki grinned.

Rough hands took hold of their arms and plonked them down by the fireplace. The strange smell of stew and meat took over the stench of the polluted air.

Hey, I was wondering...why do they target humans? The Compound I mean.” Charlie stared meaningfully at Rikki.

I don't know,” Rikki admitted. “They just do.”

Right.”

Sitting in silence is possibly one of the most awkward situations in one's entire life. Charlie hated silences. She'd had enough of them being alone in that post-apocalyptic world on her/his own.

You two. Up.” Cade pointed at them.

What's wrong?” Rikki asked quickly.

Nothing,” Cade said excitedly. “It's dinner!”

 

Dinner turned out to be a time when everyone tried to get as much food as they wanted or could fit on their plates without being hit or kicked in the head. Charlie watched in amazement at the scurry of feet and hands in this mess of human limbs. Eventually she dived in, grabbed a chicken wing and pulled out just in time before her eye got poked out with a fork. Then there was the problem of finding somewhere to sit. Everyone seemed to have a group. Rikki came over with a whole chicken held comfortably in his mouth.

Ift's diff'rent to when I was here,” Rikki mumbled. With a quick bite the chicken disappeared down his throat.

Um yeah. Want my chicken? I'm not hungry,” Charlie said.

Rikki guzzled the chicken wing down. “I love chicken.”

“So, what did you two do to deserve banishment?” Cade joined them and leant back so he was resting against a tent pole.

“Rikki helped me escape.” Charlie kicked at the dirt. “From The Compound.”

“Right. Then you'll need a good sleep then. I think we have spare tents in the Third Quarter. Come on. I'll show you.” Cade stood and guided them through the maze of canvas and smoke. Finally Cade stopped and showed them a few small house things sitting by themselves. “Lucky we do have spares. They should already have bedding and spare clothes. Have a good night.”

“Yeah,” Charlie mumbled. “I'll try.”

 

§§§

 

A long agonised scream woke Charlie up instantly. It sent her head spinning from the high pitched screech. Then she realised that it belonged to her. She was screaming because a Cyborg had just wrapped a cord of rope around her neck and was strangling her to death. Through the bright, silvery moonlight Charlie could just make out the figure of Ma'am and a few others. Rikki had his legs and arms bound with a similar material.

“You're just wasting your breath human,” Ma'am sneered. She bent down. “Now tell me, how did you gain access to The Compound.”

“I don't know,” Charlie managed. “I don't know.”

“You're lying to me,” Ma'am hissed.

“Just tell her Charlie.”

Charlie's eyes darted towards Cade who was leaning against a tent wall. The moonlight caught his arm and showed that symbol. The fish symbol.

“C?” Charlie asked quietly.

“For the last time it's Charlie,” C sighed impatiently. “You're C. Get it? Now tell the damn lady because, I really don't want you to die but if you do I'm not complaining.”

“But I don't-” The cord tightened around her neck and Charlie made a strangled gasp.

“I'm sorry,” C said. “I truly am, but you really need to learn how to co-operate.”

And then all the breath was taken from Charlie. She slumped forward and hit the ground at Ma'am's feet who grimaced.

“Filthy humans,” Ma'am spat.

And then they left the Safe Haven with Rikki and C in tow.

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