Chapter 1: A Millenium of Solitude
My alarm clock bleeped at me like a siren, and my hand reacted subconsciously when it hit the sleep button. Normally, I would have stayed in bed for at least a few more minutes before getting dressed, eating breakfast, then taking the bullet train to university, but that day demanded my full attention, and with little time.
I turned over in bed, groaning, and forced my eyes apart to stare at the bright blue numbers displayed on the hologram.
"Good morning, Ricky," a familiar voice greeted me.
I waited for my yawn to pass before answering him. "Good morning, M.I.K.E...."
The artificial intelligence would have probably been smiling if he could, but his synthesised voice remained in the same calm tone as he reminded me, "Today is the day."
I had both dreaded and impatiently awaited those words for a long time. Today was the day I would say goodbye to this polluted world and fall into a cryogenic sleep. As I got dressed in the outfit I would like to keep, I couldn't help but repeatedly glance at the photo displayed above the kitchen dining table in my small bunker. It showed me, my late mother, and my disappeared father. I couldn't remember her, but Dad had raised me on his own despite his demanding station as a leading researcher of the Yggdrasil Project.
Gungnir was not the definite solution to the calamity the human race would face in an estimated thousand years. He made sure I knew it was only a last minute solution if all else were to fail. Those of the future, with their far more advanced technology, would surely be able to figure out a better way. But until then, this plan would have to do.
"Ricky?" M.I.K.E. broke me out of my reverie. "You've been standing idly for a full minute now. Are you having second thoughts?"
I shook my head, moving to the bathroom to brush my teeth--the last time in a thousand years. "No, it's nothing, M.I.K.E."
As I brushed my teeth, I looked at the orange triangular rucksack leaned against the wall beside my front door. It carried all the things I would take with me to the future; guns, ammo, a first aid kit and a few changes of clothes.
I grabbed it as I opened the door. Outside, I hesitated. I pushed it open a little, taking one last look at the place that had been my home since my father died.
"Hey, M.I.K.E.?" I called.
"What is it, Ricky?"
"When I'm...asleep...could you please make sure nobody takes anything? I tidied this place up, and I'd like it to stay that way," I said, thumb running along the metal of the door pensively.
"Of course. I, too, will be put into sleep status before long, but until then, I will watch over your things," responded the artificial intelligence. Nodding, I shut the door, and walked down the corridor, the cold metal lit only by the neon lights running through it, to the lab.
I halted when I was about to pass a window, and looked outside at the Shinjuku district in Tokyo. The black rectangles of varying sizes which formed the skyline were lined with white and blue lights, flickering lightly, like tombstones with Christmas lights. The roads created a glowing grid throughout the technologically advanced capital. It almost appeared beautiful, if not for the dark clouds of pollution that were spraying acidic rain across the city, and across the deadened, infertile fields out of my view.
The seven Yggdrasil trees had been planted for this very reason--to cleanse the world's pollution and make it habitable once again. However, the pollution would not be lost, only concentrated in the roots of the trees. An estimated thousand years into the future, that high concentration of pollution would become a sentient being, with near infinite regenerative abilities. With no place in the food chain, it would try to find it, leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.
Gungnir units were now stationed at as many Yggdrasil trees as possible, to destroy each Yggdrasil Core. However, tests have shown that destroying only the Yggdrasil Core is impossible without destroying a large scale of land with it, obliterating millions. My dad had sworn to find a solution to that dilemma, one that provided true justice for all, and I have sworn to carry out his will.
"Miss Irving, is it?"
I turned to the female voice, seeing a woman, a researcher, judging by her lab coat. Her right arm was in a thick cast, and the other held a messy clipboard tightly against her chest.
"Yes, that's me," I answered her, eyeing the cast. There wasn't a single signature on it, nor could I identify the material.
"It's time. You should hurry to Area I," she stated, giving me a tight smile.
We turned when we heard hurried footsteps echoing down the hallway. The researcher cursed, before she briskly walked away, still clutching the documents with a white-knuckled grip. I watched her disappear around a corner, but was then grabbed and forced to face a male researcher.
"WHERE IS SHE?!" he yelled at me.
"I-I dunno!" I squeaked. He growled in frustration, but let go of me and continued away in a hurry.
"M.I.K.E., who are they?" I whispered, walking away from the scene.
"They're researchers of the Eurasian Yggdrasil station, which does not have a Gungnir unit," M.I.K.E. answered into my earpiece. "They both have high degrees in genomics, but I believe it is more noteworthy that my sensors detected an abnormality in the woman's bandaged arm."
I hummed in thought, but could not debate any further, as I had reached Area I.
The steel doors opened, revealing the cold, silent chamber that would be my home for the next thousand years.
"Visil was supposed to be here," M.I.K.E. stated, but then focused on instructing me on how to put on my suit and connect all the correct valves to the capsule. I watched with bated breath as the lid closed on top of me, and listened carefully to the artificial intelligence's explanations.
"Are you ready, Ricky? Start counting up in intervals of seven. "
I nodded, shuffling to make myself a little more comfortable, and started counting out loud.
"Seven, fourteen, twenty-one, twenty-eight..."
"Commencing gas flow."
The sound of the soporific gas flowing into the capsule startled me a little, but I continued the numbers even as my eyelids started to grow heavy.
"Thirty-five, forty...three? No--two... Forty-nine..."
I felt goosebumps ride up and down my arms, making me shudder, but my eyes continued to close, my breathing becoming shallow, and I felt my heart slowing to a halt.
"Fifty-six... Fifty...no, sixty...sixty..."
"Sleep well, Ricky. I will be waiting for you to wake in a thousand years time."
I barely heard M.I.K.E.'s words, my eyes closed, my body frozen, and my heart motionless.
For a thousand years to come.
* * *
A/N: I imagined Ricky's era to be kinda Psycho-Pass level in technology.
Chapter 2: Annihilated Home
The first thing I registered in my half-sentient state was the pain. Pure, utter pain running throughout my body as though lava had replaced my blood. The second was the smell. Fire, ashes, burnt wood, hair, and flesh. I figured the last two could have been attributed to my own pain.
After lying in the hot dirt, face down, for who knows how long, I finally willed my sticky eyelids apart.
I just as soon wished I had not.
The scene could have only been described as 'red and black'. Red flames, red sky transcending into black, red blood, some of it dried black, everywhere. The collapsed blackened frameworks of so many buildings--once homes, schools, restaurants, inns--resembled the ruins of the ancient; empty and dead.
How could this have happened? All I had been doing was helping my elder sister clear the dishes, before the ground had erupted from beneath us. My eldest brother had helped me out of the ruins of our home, and I had then carried him as far as I could, since he could not walk with his calf impaled by a steel pole. I remembered collapsing from exhaustion and inhaling all that smoke, and then I woke up here.
I started, and looked at the weight holding me down. My brother's face was black and charred, eyes closed, hair mostly gone. He wasn't breathing.
That was the last straw. I had lost my entire family, my mother and father, along with my many siblings. And now the only survivor of the initial blast, the one who had ensured I came out unscathed beyond a few cuts and bruises, was lying on top of me.
As a corpse.
I couldn't see through my tears or hear through my cries. All I could find myself doing was pushing him off of me and wandering away. I couldn't bear the sight any longer. I had to get away. There was nothing left for me in my destroyed hometown, Gotham. All I could do was stare at the flickering flames, listen to the distant popping of explosions, and take in the smokey air.
I had to look for survivors, I thought vaguely. After the loss of my entire family, and still crying, I had no idea how appealing not being alone would be. The world felt too dark, ruined, and distorted for anything to not be depressing. I was numb with despair.
But even after hours of finding only the bodies of the deceased, and no one alive, I kept searching. Perhaps only for the smallest flicker of hope, of life, amidst the destruction.
Finally, after what felt like years of emptiness, a small head of blonde hair, the ends a little burnt and blackened, caught my attention. The small boy, more than a few years younger than me, was unmoving under a collapsed wooden beam, which was probably what had knocked him out.
I made my way over to him, stumbling over bits and pieces of rubble, and knelt down in front of him. I hesitated to check his pulse, certain I would find none, just like on all the others, when I heard rasping.
I looked again at his face, ashen from blood loss, then his slightly open mouth. The rasping was coming from there.
He was breathing. He wasn't dead.
As soon as the realisation sunk in, I stumbled to my feet and scrambled to get a good grip on the heavy-looking beam. With my hands firmly underneath it, I pulled it upwards with all my might.
The charred wood was surprisingly light, and I ended up falling backwards with it and landing on my backside from using too much force. I muttered a few curses under my breath, but abruptly fell into silence when a weak giggle, barely louder than a whisper, reached my ears. I looked, and saw that the little boy was finally conscious, coughing weakly at the smoke in the air and his lungs.
Slowly, so as to not startle him, I leaned down and grasped his shoulder. His half-lidded, pale blue eyes--the colour of a sky I found difficult to remember--met mine.
"Are you alright? What's your name?" I asked gently, pulling his limp, but nevertheless alive, body up against mine. Now that I could see him entirely, I saw that no joints or bones were at odd angles or the wrong length, indicating that nothing was broken, and he only had minor burns on his legs and forearms. He otherwise appeared unharmed.
"It hurts..." he mumbled, allowing himself to rest against me. He then looked around at the destruction around us from his head resting on my shoulder. "Where're we...?"
"Gotham," I tried to reply simply, but realised I was still choking on my sobs. "Once our hometown."
He frowned pensively, and it was only then I noticed that some of the blackness around his head was not ash, but blood. I asked the first questioned that came to mind then, "Do you remember what happened?"
After a moment, he shook his head.
Perhaps his amnesia was mercy. If only I had been granted the same bliss.
It took him a few seconds, but eventually managed to say, "I'm Arthur... Arthur Charles."
"My name is Simon Yorke."
* * *
I had ripped strips of my clothing to cover his burns, lest they become infected, and shouldered most of his weight as we walked. Away from everything we had ever known.
* * *
As M.I.K.E. showed the glowing panel of red, all towns in the area marked with 'NO SURVIVORS', Arthur and I were both plunged into the memory of that day. The day of fear, loneliness, and despair.
"Dude! Is this some sick joke?! There... There's NO way we're letting that happen!"
"...And this is the best way?"
"Yes, Simon. No other method will yield better results. This is the correct choice."
How could the day we lost everything have been the consequence of the 'correct choice'?