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.


1. They Came From the Sea...

My grandmother told me that the Great Gear War changed everything. It started two centuries ago. Before the kingdoms started fighting, she said that the country was a beautiful place. The fields around town—Auburn Hills is what it's called—were lush. The grass was so tall and thick, one could rip a stem from the dirt and swing it like a sword. Residents grew wheat, corn, even planted Apple trees. During those times, the neighboring cities treated one another fairly well and citizens could enter in and out without being shot down by the guards. Soldiers? Nice? Hard for me to believe. They're all soulless bastards these days.

I can still remember sitting at her round table in the kitchen above our shop, staring at the ebony-colored dolls of Angels and famous bearded musicians placed in glass cases on the shelves that surrounded me. I hated them, because no matter where I went in that cramped room, they seemed to have their permanent joyous heads turned towards me. Freaked me the hell out. She stood in front of me, gingerly stirring stew on the stove. She made the best stews. Packed them full of potatoes. Even though I was staring at her slouched back through her violet dress and the puffy gray bun her hair was tied into, I could almost make out the dreamy look in her tired eyes as she craned her head to the ceiling. She had a wide smile on her face. I know she did. During the beginning of her story, she always smiled.

Back then, I offered to make dinner almost every night, so she could rest. She's got a bad back. I was only nine then, but I watched her cook the stuff for years. She's a stubborn old something and would take my help as an insult. That's who she was. Tougher than the meanest bull, yet full of wisdom and love.

"I may be old boy, but Granny's bones got plenty of strength in them, don't get it twisted," She would frown, right before clocking me in the arm with her wooden spoon playfully.

"Sides, kid. You ain't seasoned enough to cook my famous stew from start to finish." She continued, cracking a toothy grin.

I'm rambling though. Back to the war.

I recall my granny saying that no one really knows where the robots came from. Some say they arrived on Noland from an enemy country. Others speak of a sick, twisted experiment on a far off island. Real people being tortured and turned to robots. Half-machines. All everyone knows is that they rose from the sea. That's what she said. Just walked right out the water, onto Red Beach, thousands of them. Their invasion was like wildfire. From the mountains in the North where the Werefoxes live, to the forests in the West. They didn't need rest. Never got hungry. They were monsters. Unbeatable. Nowadays, us young folk, as my grandmother would call us, we call the androids "Gears." That's what makes them move. Enables them to keep slaughtering. I know a few friends, they claim to have seen how an actual gear works. I doubt it. Bunch of gossipers, all of them.

I'm veering off again.

Any-who, their ranks devastated kingdoms using their overwhelming strength, indestructible shells not to mention the weapons, which came from their own body parts. Their own body parts...

To this day I still can't imagine my hand transform into a machine gun. Let alone someone else's chest literally open up and fire rockets. That's what the robots did though. It's... It's just not right...

"Dee... Heeeeellooooo... Dee! Earth to Deon!" A woman's voice shouts.

I blink, snapping from my thoughts, returning to the present. My heads clears and I find myself gazing down at the worn leather of my boots. My butt is kind of numb from sitting on the concrete steps outside the shop. The sun is sweltering and I can feel sweat soaking through my clothes. My favorite gray button up is covered in dark wet spots, from collar to belly. Freaking embarrassing.

I look up, spotting random people cruise by along the brick streets. Across from me stand a few other shops near an intersection. My town, Auburn Hills, sat on the slope of huge hill. Two and three story cabins create various establishments that surround me-schools, hospitals, cafes, even the town-hall, Mayor Hornwell's headquarters. They are all mixed in amongst rows of homes. Outside of town, more mounds of Earth stretch into the horizon.

I groan and run a hand through my afro, reacting too late—something smooth, yet cold is smashed against my forehead. Bits and pieces of a waffle cone shower my shoulders; joining it is the melted strawberry ice cream that rolls down my face, similar to slime. Then I remember why I stepped out into hell in the first place. To hide...

"Serves you right thief," The woman's voice rises to laughter.

It belongs to my older cousin Tamika. She places a hand on pockets of her jeans, shifting her weight to one leg. Her dark, beaded braids rattle while brushing her cheeks. They're annoying. Makes me think of the rattlesnakes that created Medusa's hair, minus the powers and the snake-ass.

"I'm in here busting my tits and what I catch you doing? Taking an unauthorized break and stealing ice-cream?! Best believe that's coming out your check too!"

I stand to my feet, opening my mouth to complain, however, she socks me with a good gut-check, knocking the wind out of me and sending me back down to my knees.

"You no good, lazy, trifling, stupid little—"

She rants on, using more insults-plus some curses-as she puts me in a headlock and drags me back into the store. Tamika helps run the shop with me now. It's been ten years since I've heard the story of how the Gears arrived in Noland.

Granny has since then went to heaven.

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