Alternate Gear

Named after a man who first discovered the country, it was a beautiful place full of life. Until the Great Gear War ravaged the land and left it barren. The remains of machines litter the soil. Rouge android armies roam unchecked and kill anything in sight. Cities and towns are turned to ashes in their wake. People call them "Gears," due to the giant pieces of metal rotating in their chests.
Eighty years of fighting has divided the land. There are three major regions, and each area is governed by a different species. In the South, lies the vast beach of the Black Sea. The sun hardly ever rises or sets there anymore. Many believe the coast is cursed; it was the main battleground of the war. No one knows what lurks beneath the waters anymore...
After their own town is decimated, Deon and Tamika Colworthe, two store clerks, set out seeking new lives, unknowingly beginning a new era of peace.


2. Colworthe's

For four solid hours, Tamika worked me to the bone as if I were her personal slave. The worst part—she was technically my boss, so I had to grit my teeth and bear it. She made me stock the shelves, dust and sweep the shop from top to bottom. Then she sent me to the back to rearrange the box supplies. Three times.

She claimed my first two attempts were completely wrong and careless, which was total horse-crap. She just wanted to punish me for stepping out while her back was turned. She could be so anal at times. Honestly, it was ten minutes away from my break. I just decided to take it a little early. What was wrong with that? We haven't had customers all day.

The back of our shop was a closet-spaced area; tall steel shelves kissed every corner of the room, housing an assortment of dusty boxes—materials we sold to the residents. Above me, two lamps, attached to rusted chains, dangled from the ceiling. The store wasn't big, just an old shack that sat at one of the main intersections in the middle of town.

My grandmother and grandfather built the place from the ground up; it was one of the earliest stores to open shortly after Auburn Hills became official. They called it "Colworthe's," named after the family last name. At least that's what Granny used to brag. Our apartment is on the second floor of the cabin. We sell a little bit of everything; Frozen foods, fruit and vegetables, toys, tools, small house-ware products. The older citizens respect our business, they're our main customers these days...

I remember how Granny treated shoppers when she ran the store eleven years ago. She served everyone with warm kindness, striking up conversation any time she could. During those days the shop was even smaller; five aisles made up the store and a colorful collection of pottery hung along the walls. She appreciated art.

The register stood on a wide counter beside the main entrance. We didn't have to worry about thieves either. The townsfolk were good, hard working people who didn't tolerate foolishness. Plus they loved her...

"Deon, get out here!" I hear Tamika's voice shout angrily from the front.

I clench my teeth and roll my eyes, feeling my irritation throb within my temples. Damn her.

Because she was older than me by five years, Granny gave my cousin charge of the shop before her death. At the time I wasn't old enough to be an owner. The old woman's last act must have inflated Tamika's ego tenfold; I don't see any other reason behind her being so freaking bossy and pissy.

Prior to Granny's passing, she was actually a cool person to hang with. Mature, kind, sort of a joker. Haven't seen that side of her for years, since before the funeral. I sigh. Perhaps it wasn't her ego. Maybe she's still bitter. Mourning. God knows I am. We're the last of the Colworthes. And this store is all we have left to our name.

I push aside the curtains, walking into the main section of the shop, my boots clunk and clop against the tiled floors as I reluctantly weave my way through full passageways, staring up at the giant round mirrors and cameras beneath the fluorescent lights.

The muggy air from outside seems to have gotten in and it's already making my skin feel sticky. When I reach the register at the head of the building, I spot Ms. Stewart, a stout pale woman dressed in a jogging suit. Shiny silver hair tied into a thick ponytail falls down her back. She's a regular of ours and a close friend of Granny's when she was living. Her four year-old niece Miranda stands beside her wearing a pink dress, munching on a cookie. Stacks of large paper bags cover the glass counter.

"Dee!" The girl's big blue eyes brighten upon seeing me; she immediately bolts towards me and gives my leg a bear hug. She's adorable.

We've known Miranda since she's been able to speak. She's a lonely child, so she treats me and Tamika like her big siblings. Or another really close pair of cousins.

"Hey there," I kneel down to her and smile. "Little lady, you sure are getting big!"

"Look what 'Mika gave me!" She beams, her brunette pigtails bounce on the side of her head while she thrusts the huge peanut-butter cookie into my face.

"Oh wow!" I say playfully. "Can I have some?"

"No!" She giggles, quickly yanking the snack from me. "Mine! Go get a new one!"

I join my cousin and our cherished customer in filling the shop with laughter, feeling my pent up frustration slowly melt to nothing. Boy did I need that. Miranda always makes my day when she visits.

"Ms. Stewart needs help carrying her bags home," Tamika begins, folding her arms under her hefty bosom. Her tone seems to have lightened a little; maybe she's not upset anymore? We would have to talk later.

"I'm sorry for interrupting your work," The elder quickly jumps in. "You know me... Always getting into trouble and going overboard. Spent up all my little change."

I instantly stand to my feet, then rush past her to the register, grabbing as many groceries as my arms can hold. Helping customers was what we did at Colworthe's.

"No worries Ms. Stewart," I give my cousin a glance and she nods approvingly. Granny would be proud.

"We appreciate your business!"






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