When the poles shifted the tectonic plates ground fiercely against one another causing great disruptions to the land, the ocean devouring some landmasses and giving birth to others. Two hundred years had passed since then, something less than a blink of an eye in the cosmos; but generations for mankind. One such island was Свежая земля, the black rock; where many Russians fled while their homelands flooded. Свежая земля was one of the first islands to be populated by the Russian refugees, rough settlements were established people started to settle in before the island’s violent nature became evident. The fault line below was restless and had destroyed much of what the settlers had built, and again when they rebuilt. Early settlements were abandoned as most of the populace moved further inland to where the ground was more stable.
Dust kicked up under their feet with each step as they ran down the dry road. The sun had been scorching the land for weeks without a cloud in sight and it had taken its toll. There was a little overcast today, thin grey clouds that hung in the air as though pinned in place. “It isn’t far now,” the woman said, keeping pace with her partner Dmitri. She looked him over with concern, he was soaked in sweat and his skin had taken on a waxy pallor. She glanced down at his gut where the bullet had punched a hole into him. They’d bound the wound as best they could as they ran but the best they could do wasn’t much.
They came to the hills crest and saw the ruined remains of the city below. It was an area Nadya knew well. She’d grown up there, raised by her junkie parents. They’d saw that she ate, for that she would give them credit, but they did little else for her. They were spaced out most of the time. She looked at broken structures of the city. Long ago in the early days of settling, this wreck of roads and buildings had been the island’s capital. There were many who called the place home. Then the fault lines split roads and leveled homes. Time took care of what nature did not until very few structures still stood.
“Come on,” she encouraged; “We’re almost there.” Dmitri grimaced and nodded. “It’s downhill at least,” he grunted. They jogged the rest of the way to the city, Nadya taking the occasional look back to see if they were being followed yet. It was a matter of time before they were found out. She wondered what would infuriate her old employer more; the missing Rush, or the dead guard. She didn’t figure it mattered, the result would be the same. He’ll send his dogmen after us. She didn’t relish the thought. They hopped over a small fissure across the road at the edge of the city and slowed their pace as they moved among the broken remains of buildings; peering into half-walls and rubble and the remains of what was and what could have been. “Ugh,” Dmitri groaned. He stopped and leaned his back against the cool side of a mostly intact building. He slid his backpack to the ground and pulled off his shirt, turning. “How bad is it?” he asked, holding out his shirt for her. Nadya bent down to get a better look and immediately wished she hadn’t. “We need to get some rest,” she said, taking the shirt and tying it around the wound to apply more pressure and bind it as best as she could. “Even for just an hour. I have some Regen in my pack.” “Alright,” Dmitri smiled weakly; “Let’s rest then.” “Not here, idiot,” she said with a smirk, cupping his cheek with a hand. She rubbed his cheek gently with her palm and bopped him the nose with her thumb. “There are some building still standing downtown where we can hole up,” she told him. “Come on.” “Do you think it is easier for them to track us while I bleed?” Dmitri asked, picking up his pack. “Don’t be foolish,” Nadya said. “They are dogs, not sharks.” They followed the broken streets, climbing over rubble and uneven earth to the center of the city where a cluster of larger buildings still stood.
Katenka trailed behind the rest of the pack, sniffing at the air while the others focused their attention on signs of passage on the ground. “It smells of rain,” she said. She glanced at the thin clouds in the otherwise empty sky. It didn’t look like rain, but it certainly smelled of it. It would be a good thing for the land, it was true; but not the best thing for tracking. “Focus on our targets,” Ivan, the tallest of them snarled. His black hair was offset by the occasional thread of silver. “Why?” she challenged. “We know where they’ve gone. Their tracks are clear to see in the dirt. They go to the old city to hide out.” “Aye, most like,” Nikolai agreed. “We waste time sniffing around. We should move with haste to the old city.” “And what then if they veer off the trail?” Ivan asked. “What if their movement to the city is a ruse and they go off-road?” “I think you overestimate the quarry, brother,” Katenka murmured, but she brooked no further argument. Ivan was the pack leader and despite her best judgement, she had to defer to him. The only way to change his pack status was for someone to challenge and defeated him, and he was too strong by far for any of them. Katenka contented herself with watching for signs of weakness. Ivan wasn’t the perfect specimen, but he was clearly an impressive physical presence. He stood a head taller than anyone else, with broad shoulders and powerful limbs. The canine procedure hadn’t marred his features the way it had some of the others. He was quite handsome in fact. If not for his stubbornness, he might have made a great leader. “Keep following Ivan’s lead,” Katenka told herself. “If we fail it falls on him.” “Huh?” Boris asked from beside her where he sniffed at a long-rusted road sign. “Nothing,” she said, her face reddening. She had a habit of talking to herself. She worried that it made her seem mad.
They made their way down the hill to the edge of the old city, hopping over a deep fissure that crossed the road. The remains of the early colony stood before them like ghosts, the landscape marred by the passage of time and the deep gashes of earth. It had been an impressive place once, the capital was said to be city of splendor; but just now it was hard to picture it. “Over here,” Pакета called back. He was standing in front of a mostly-intact building not far from the edge of town; staring down at a pool of blood. Pакета was the eldest of the pack, a survivor of the previous pack leader. He was no alpha, and he had no intention of being so; but his experience and instincts made him valuable no matter who was in charge. “There’s more ahead,” he said, pointing up the road where the occasional drop of blood practically glistened against the cracked dry pavement of the road. Ivan looked back at Katenka with a slick smile that made her want to rip his throat out. She hated it when he was right. “Come on,” Ivan said, so pleased he was practically laughing. “We’ll follow the blood like sharks.”
Nadya pressed the cool regen-paste into the wound and Dmitri bit back a scream; his body tensed and rigid as the nanobots created new nerves, muscle tissue, and skin. The regen was an effective means of healing but was by no means a pleasant experience. It felt like he was being prodded with a thousand needles in rapid succession, over and over again. When it was finally done, he lay on the concrete heavy of breath and dripping with sweat. “Rest as best you can for now,” Nadya advised him, standing near the edge of the building and looking out over the empty city. “It won’t be long until they catch up with us, and if they don’t pass us by we need to be ready to move.” Dmitri nodded and lay back on the hard cement, trying to find an angle that was comfortable. The fatigue from running and regen-mending had his eyes rolling back in his head, but his mind was still racing. He thought of things best left unthought, his mind flashing with images of his death and Nadya’s. This was stupid, stealing from Rasputin; he was notoriously savage and vengeful of his enemies. A little over sixteen hours ago Dmitri had dressed for work like any other day, his blaster at his hip and the pulsar rifle over his shoulder. He was the night guard for Rasputin, he and another man named Karlof. Their job as to stand guard their employer’s vault of illicit substances. Karlof was the new guy, plucked from the streets and into Rasputin’s employ. He was kind of an asshole, Dmitri thought. Didn’t actually mind killing him. He was always trying to show how tough he was and how good he was at the job. “Relax,” Dmitri had told him. “You already have the job.” Karlof didn’t relax though. He didn’t seem to know how. The only time he dropped his guard even a little bit is when Nadya came to deliver their evening meal. “I can’t never pass up no pretty face like that,” he would say, reaching for her and getting a little handsy. Nadya made a game of it, displaying her agility and deftly avoiding his contact while offering playful banter back at him. She toyed with him like a cat toys with a mouse, but Karlof was too stupid to realize it. That’s why they struck during meal time. Dmitri sat on one of the folding chairs near the vault door while Karlof paced around nearby, reminiscing on how tough he had been ‘on the come up’. He was the “baddest dude in his neighborhood,” and “the meanest in town.” Karlof punched a fist into the palm of his other hand and let out a little chuckle. “I’m tellin’ you, I am the last man you want to meet alone in the middle of the night.” “For sexual reasons?” Dmitri asked with a smirk. Sometimes it was hard to avoid inciting the kid. “What? No?!” Karlof said, his face going almost red. He pointed at Dmitri, his fist tremoring with fury, and he started to speak but was interrupted when the buzzer sounded at the door. “You’re lucky,” he said instead, storming off to the monitor to see who was at the door. “It is Nadya,” Karlof announced. “Good,” Dmitri said, patting his lean stomach. “I’m hungry.” It wasn’t hunger he felt through really, his stomach was alight with nervous tension. Karlof hit the switch and Nadya walked in carrying a basket filled with their lunches. As soon as she stepped in Karlof was on her, like a dog in heat; just relentless. A momentary flash of disgust crossed her face, and she shared a brief look with Dmitri; one that said she would be glad to be rid of him soon. “You look amazing this night,” Karloff told her. Nadya smiled, set the basket on the table, and stepped back. “What did you bring us?” Karloff asked, moving to the table to open the basket. As he did, Nadya took another step back. Dmitri got up and came over to stand beside him while Karloff pulled a container out and opened it up. Karloff smiled and looked over at Dmitri. “Fried chicken,” he said. Then he felt something press against his side and looked down to see the barrel of Dmitri’s blaster against his stomach. Dmitri gave him a moment to understand what was happening before he pulled the trigger. He took mild delight in the look on the arrogant punk’s face as the realization dawned on him. A quick bassy note sounded, disrupting the air around it; and Karloff was dropping his chicken breast and staggering backward clutching at a gaping hole in his side. Karloff lay in shock at their feet, his breath coming in short desperate gasps. “Let’s hurry,” Dmitri said, turning to the big door of the vault. He turned the key in the lock and the heavy door swung slowly inward. Nadya grabbed a pair of backpacks from the bottom of the picnic basket and together they stepped through the entrance. The vault was full of packages stacked atop one another on shelves and in boxes. All of it had value of course, but they didn’t just betray Rasputin Mikhailov and murder one of his guards for just anything. They aimed to get rich fast. They loaded up on Rush, a finely ground powder that leant users a surge of energy and mental clarity. Nadya grabbed a few packages of other things for their own recreational uses, but otherwise their packs were filled with Rush. Dmitri was the first one out of the vault. He made his way over to the fried chicken and took a bite. “What are you doing?” Nadya hissed at him from the vault as she shouldered the door closed. “I’m hungry,” Dmitri said. “We don’t have time for snacks,” she told him. Dmitri took another bite before setting the drumstick down. He wiped the grease absently on his vest. “Come on,” Nadya implored. “Alright, alright,” he said, securing the fasteners of his pack. “I am ready.” Nadya was waiting for him at the door, her blaster in hand. Had anyone heard or felt the bassy shockwave of the round that took Karloff down? They didn’t think anyone was near enough, but they had no way to be certain. Dmitri drew his own blaster and stepped casually over his workmate, a casualty of their betrayal. He was oblivious to the breaths his fallen partner still took, shallow though they were; and thus was unprepared for what happened. The blaster raised from the ground in a shaky hand and the dying man pulled the trigger; the kick from the weapon knocking it out of his man’s weak grip and Karloff collapsed. The blast sent another bassy note through the chamber and Dmitri was knocked to the ground.
There would be rain soon. Rain was bad for tracking. The clouds in the sky, once sparse and thin, now blotted out the sun. The blood trail they’d been following would soon be washed away, the prints and scents likewise affected. Time was of the essence. Instead they were arguing. “The rain will fall soon,” Katenka growled, her auburn hair wet with perspiration. “We must make a decision.” “All signs point to the buildings down town,” Nikolai agreed; “Again we waste time arguing instead of following our instincts.” “You are more dog than man,” Pакета countered, his grey hackles raised. “You have forgotten how to use your mind.” “Tread carefully, comrade,” Nikolai growled, baring his teeth; “Lest I give over entirely to my canine blood.” “Enough,” Ivan said, “I have decided. Nikolai and Katenka have the right of it. It’s as much instinct as it is logic. We go to the tall buildings and we seek them out.” Pакета and Nikolai exchanged dirty looks and mild growling but there was no argument made otherwise. Ivan was alpha after all. Katenka thought it over as they followed their directives. If she were to make a move on Ivan, she was sure that she would have Nikolai’s support. Boris, the strongest of the pack, was fiercely loyal to Ivan. Pакета was the only wildcard. Pакета who rubbed everyone the wrong way, Pакета who argued the other side of any suggestion. If she could sway Pакета to her side she would have the majority.
When he opened his eyes, he was vaguely aware of a light misty rain. Nadya was knelt over him; her eyes wide with concern. She was shaking his shoulders. “Dmitri,” she said urgently. He tried to speak but failed to open his mouth. His limbs were heavy and his mind felt numb. He tried to force himself to wake up. “What is it?” he slurred, propping himself up on an elbow. “What’s wrong?” “You have to wake up,” she said, inches from his face. She swam before him in his rolling vision. His eyes started to roll back and close. Nadya slapped him. Had he not been so numb, he was certain it would have hurt; as it was it merely surprised him. “Here,” she said. She held a dirty finger to his nose, shielding it from the rain with her other hand; and gave him a dose of Rush with it. “We need to get out of here.” Dmitri sniffled a few times after, rubbing at his nostrils. It stung at first, a mild burn that quickly cooled like a deep breath after a strong mint. The cool tingling travelled through to his lungs and from there to the rest of his body. He had transitioned from the grips of sleep to absolute clarity in the blink of an eye. Rush. It was a hell of a drug. “How are you feeling?” she asked, standing up and holding his pack out to him. “Better,” Dmitri said stoically. He prodded at his newly healed flesh, finding it still tender. “Any signs of pursuit?” “They are near,” she said, pointing eastward. Dmitri crawled over to the edge of the building and saw them just a block away. There were five in all sniffing around and inspecting the road around them, stopping now and then to discuss something. He moved back where Nadya was waiting. “They follow my blood trail,” he commented. “Did I not say as much?” “You’d be dead right now if I’d listened to you,” she reminded him. Dmitri nodded. “What now?” he asked. “We get ready to move,” she told him. She led him to far side of the roof where a long plank lay on its side. “It’s far enough to get us to that building,” she said, nodding at the indicated neighbouring structure. “How sturdy is the plank?” Dmitri asked with a dubious look. Nadya shrugged. “We will find out soon.” They kept an eye on the dogmen below and they waited. The rain started to intensify, coming down harder as the minutes passed; but perhaps not hard enough. One of the dogmen, a big brutish looking grey, found something to the side of their building’s main entry way. He ran his finger along it, gave it a sniff; and looked up. He made eye-contact with them for just an instant before they were able to duck out of view. “Shit,” Dmitri said, looking over at Nadya with a grim smile. “Do you think he told the others? “This is no time for stupid jokes,” she told him, getting to her feet. “Come on.” “I didn’t think it was that stupid,” Dmitri said, following her across the roof. The rain had soaked everything by then. The misty sprinkling was consolidated into a steady patter of drops. Together they lifted the long plank and laid it out, the far end slapping loud on the other roof. The building wasn’t far, just ten feet or so; but the roof was higher by about three and the plank was at an incline. “I don’t like this,” Dmitri said, looking across the expanse. Nadya shrugged. “We don’t have a choice.” He held the plank steady for her and she gave him a kiss on the cheek. Then she hopped up and walked across like it was nothing. She hopped back down on the other side with a flourish and a bow and then she waved him on. Dmitri took a deep breath and a glance behind him at the door to the roof. The dogmen weren’t up here yet, but there was no doubt they would be soon. It wouldn’t take them long to ascend five floors. He returned his attention to the plank before him and tried to ignore the five-floor drop below. Dogmen or no, Dmitri didn’t think he’d have the courage to cross if he hadn’t snorted that Rush. He stepped up onto the plank and took a few tentative steps. His legs shook, a combination of nerves and drug-induced energy. Below him was an alley of rust for him to be impaled on should he fall; twisted road signs and the skeletons of cars. He tried to blink the thought away, to stay focused on the other end of the plank, but his mind kept straying to his impending doom. It was so incredibly far down. “Come on, Dmitri!” Nadya called. “We have to move!” He looked across to his friend, saw the look of concern in her eyes, and nodded. His legs felt like they were made of lead but he was determined. He stepped slowly across the wide plank, ignoring the creaks and cracks of the wood underfoot. The rain made the surface slick and more than once his foot slipped and he nearly fell, but he kept moving. Soon Nadya was helping him down and together they pushed the plank over the ledge, letting it clatter in the alley below. Then they ran to the access door but found it locked. “No,” she said desperately, kicking ineffectually at it. “Step aside,” Dmitri told her, charging forward to slam it with his shoulder. The door flew open, the lock long rusted and fragile. He looked back to her and smirked. “After you,” he told her, ushering her forward. “Nadya laughed and almost kissed him but stopped when another door slammed open across the alley. The pack had made it to the roof.
Katenka was the first one out. She looked around furiously for their quarry but found no sign. The others emerged behind her. Nikolai salivated as he stepped out, Boris was growling with each exhale, and Pакета was baring his teeth. Ivan came out last, moving with and arrogant swagger and a cocky smirk. The sneer dropped from his face a moment later. “Where are they?” He asked. “There,” Katenka said, pointing to a neighboring building where they could see the couple stepping inside. “I can make the jump,” Nikolai said. He didn’t wait for permission, either; just charged forward a few steps and leapt the distance. “We can all make the jump!” Ivan said in frustration. “You two, go with him,” he said to Pакета and Katenka. “Boris and I will go back down and cut off any escape. We will pin them between us.” Ivan and Boris disappeared in the stairwell and Katenka took a few steps forward before leaping easily across to the other side. She landed with grace, but Pакета landed with a few clumsy steps beside her. They landed in time to watch as Nikolai opened the door. There was a deep bassy pulse of disrupted air and blast a hole opened in Nikolai’s midsection. He stumbled back a few steps, looking down in surprise when a second shockwave rocked through the air and his head exploded into a mess of gore. Pакета started to move forward but Katenka stopped him. “Let them think he was the only one to make the jump,” she said quietly. “Then we catch them by surprise.” Pакета did not argue for once.
They saw the trajectory of the jump, the dogman was going to make it. Nadya ducked inside the stairwell and Dmitri followed after, pulling the door closed behind him. “Go,” Dmitri told her, his voice echoing in the stair shaft. “I will be there soon.” He unfastened the blaster from his belt. Nadya gave his shoulder a quick squeeze and then started down the stairs, her steps echoing in the chamber. When the door opened, he would be ready. Dmitri took a defensive stance and listened. Rain pattered on the roof. Thunder rumbled. Nadya sounded like she was half way down the stairs when the door finally opened. A genetic freak filled the frame, broad-shouldered and towering. Lighting flashed behind him creating a strobed silhouette. Dmitri pulled the trigger. A bass note shook the air around them as the energy blasted a hole through the dogman’s stomach. He stumbled back a step, examining his wound, when Dmitri raised the barrel higher and pulled the trigger again. Dmitri didn’t stick around to watch the body fall. He kicked the door closed and ran down the echo chamber stairwell. When he was halfway down he started to hear pursuit above. He swore between breaths and increased his speed, moving recklessly down the steps near to the point of stumbling. Halfway down the last flight he saw the door below open. He stopped a few steps up and was greeted by a massive pair of dogmen. “Hello, Dmitri,” the elder of the two said with a wolfish smile. “You’ve been a very bad boy.” The other one laughed wickedly behind him. “Where is your friend?” the other asked. “That is a good question, Boris,” the elder said, looking around. “Where is the girl?” Dmitri looked anywhere but in their eyes. He started to back up but his pursuers were too near to go back. They were soon on the landing behind him and he was pinned; two dogmen ahead and two behind. “There is nowhere to go, friend,” the elder said. “Surrender and we will go easy on you.” “Easy?” asked a feminine voice from the landing above. “He killed Nikolai!” The elder’s face darkened. “Is this true?” he asked. “I’m not certain it was Nikolai,” Dmitri said, somehow calm despite the fireworks going through his nerves. “We did not exchange names.” “For that you will suffer,” the leader said. “I figured as much,” Dmitri commented. The one called Boris laughed. “This one is funny,” he said, nudging his leaders with a grey furred elbow. “Amusing, yes,” the elder agreed. “Where is your little girlfriend?” “I don’t know,” Dmitri answered. Then he sniffed at the air dramatically. “You guys smell that? It stinks of wet dog in here.” He saw the muscles tense in the old dogmen below but didn’t wait for them to act. He raised the barrel of his blaster and sent out a shockwave that tore through the leader’s shoulder and knocked him back into the other. Figuring this was his best chance to make it out of there, Dmitri fired another blast into them and charged forward in its aftermath, jumping off the last couple of steps and landing bodily on the pair of them. He tried to spin right past them, but a strong hand grabbed hold of his bicep and pinned him in place. It was Boris. Dmitri looked up the thick muscled arm to the eyes of his captor; the look of angry determination was waning from the dogman’s face. Boris was dying. The energy blast had left a gaping hole in his chest. His grip was weakening. “Filthy mutt-blood,” Dmitri muttered, giving his arm a final yank and pulling free of his grip. He fired once up the stairs at the other two and ran for the door, feeling the brush of someone reaching as he passed. He slammed open the door and took half a step outside before a rake of claws tore through the fabric and flesh of his lower back. The straps of his pack gave way under duress and it went flying off to the road. He stumbled forward, falling to his hands and knees out in the rain, the blaster clattering to the ground in front of him. The strong grip of a big hand grabbed onto his calf, nails digging into muscle. He reached for the blaster but he was suddenly being dragged back inside. “No,” he said, trying desperately to find something on the wet ruins of a road he could grip. His fingertips scraped against the cracked road, fingernails tearing from flesh as he tried to fight against the pull. It was a futile effort and he knew it. Then he saw Nadya standing before him in the rain, pulsar rifle lowered. She fired a blast and the grip on his leg suddenly released. Dmitri scrambled forward, his fingers reaching the rain-slick blaster grip. He rolled onto his back just as the big grey dogman was diving in to finish him off. Dmitri got his blaster up barely in time to blow a hole in his attacker’s midsection. It wasn’t enough to stop the grey’s momentum though and the dogman landed atop him, locking his jaws on either side of his throat. Dmitri felt the teeth sink into his neck and he closed his eyes.
Katenka watched it unfold from the stair. Pакета fell atop his quarry even after the blast shot his insides out of his back. He tore the man’s throat out and spat it on the ground beside him. A moment later he lost his strength and fell atop the man he’d just killed. Ivan, one arm rendered useless from the blast he’d taken at the bottom of the stairs, lumbered in toward the woman called Nadya. She shot at him, her blast hitting nearly the same spot on his injured shoulder, and he swung at her with one massive arm. The woman leaned back casually from the strike, graceful like a dancer, and raised the weapon to finish him off. But Ivan was faster than she’d apparently expected and he smacked the rifle out of her hand. Ivan reached out to grab Nadya but she ducked under his reach and sidestepped toward her rifle. The big dogman snarled and quick-stepped toward her, his snapping jaws nearly finding their mark. The woman moved her head ever so slightly to avoid the attack, elbowing Ivan in the chest in the process. The canine grabbed hold of her jacket and smirked. “I have you now,” he said with menace. Katenka watched in awe as the woman slipped out of the jacket and dove into a roll toward her weapon. She came to her feet with the pulsar rifle in hand. She fired without hesitation. Ivan stood in shock, clutching at the place where his heart used to be. He looked over the woman’s shoulder, behind her to the doorway where he seemed to be pleading with Katenka. The woman started to turn back to follow his gaze but Katenka ducked back inside. Thunder shook overhead. The dogwoman stood on the other side of the door, tense and waiting, but Nadya never came to investigate. When Katenka chanced a glance outside there was nothing but rain and the bodies of the dead. The woman was gone. It was just as well, perhaps. Katenka stepped into the storm and checked on her pack, resting her hand briefly on each of them and whispered parting words. She stopped at Ivan last. He lay on his side, still pulling in shallow breaths. “You did not intervene,” he said accusingly, his voice faint. “I did not,” she confirmed. “Why?” he asked. “Because you were not worth saving,” she told him. “You lead our pack to their death.” “What will you do?” he asked. “I will bury our pack,” she answered. “And I will return to Rasputin with a bag full of his missing drugs. I will tell of your failures and fall in with a new pack.” Ivan nodded. “Will you bury me as well?” he asked, a note of fragility at the edge of his voice. “Of course,” Katenka said. “A pack should not be separated in death.” Ivan seemed satisfied with her answer. His eyes closed and a final long breath left his body. She knelt over him in the rain a little longer, reflecting on what had been. Lightning flashed and the world shook with thunder, blood and rain blended into a cloudy mess in the street. She was utterly soaked by the time she got back inside. Katenka, the last of her pack, stood in the ruined remains of an old building and listened to the rain. She remembered each of her fallen brothers, who they had been and how they had gone. All in pursuit of two unaltered humans… One of whom was still out there. The more she thought on it, the more she realized that she had some unfinished business ahead of her. There would be tracks in mud to follow in this rain. She would avenge her comrades. She eyed the pack. A little Rush wouldn’t hurt.
It was done. Dmitri was gone and the dogmen were dead. Nadya walked on flooded uneven roads, unconcerned for the rain. A flash of lightning illuminated the barren streets, rusted hunks of long abandoned vehicles sitting like skeletons before time-bleached road signs. Thunder rolled through like a boulder. “It’s only me now,” she said to herself, shifting the weight of her pack on her shoulder. She thought back on Dmitri and fought off a cry. There would be plenty of time for crying when she was off the damn island and safely away from Rasputin’s reach. Until then there would be more bounty hunters. Another flash of lightning lit up the old city. Had Nadya been paying better attention she would have seen the silhouette of one last canine. Had it not been raining, she might have heard the movement behind her. Had she not been so distracted by grief she might have sensed her pursuer drawing near. Instead, the heavy swipe of the clawed hand came as a complete surprise. One moment Nadya was walking, the next she was airborne and landing with a splash on the hard road, her pulsar rifle skittering out of her grip. She scrambled to her weapon. Katenka strode forward confidently to finish the job. Nadya rolled onto her back with her rifle in hand. Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled. In the soaked streets of the old city a battle was fought. Death was no strange thing in a city of junkies.
Redbush, a politically led human rights group, organised the attempted capture of player '6' of the Deutschland Dragons in 2125. Breaking into the Clone-Corp institute, 7 members of the left-wing group proceeded to hack the security and incapacitated 5 guards before attempting to release the Blunt. Unfortunately, the Blunt was receiving its Bio-mem offence Neurolink-up and mistook the group for an opposing team. Found not guilty for the accounts of murder, the Blunt has publically apologised for this indiscretion. To date, no response has been made by Redbush.
Nanotechnology has been around since the early 21st century. Originally used for medical interventions, nanotechnology fast became a would-be cure for most ailments and diseases. With these micro-engineered robots able to repair cells and slightly alter DNA, the application for nano-bots was endless. It was only a matter of time before they were adapted to enhance the body, not just repair it.
Subdermal plating, reinforced skeletal grafting and organ enhancement were all results of militarising this medical engineering.
Easier than grafting cybernetic or cloned implants to augment a body, this practice became commonplace until the rise of the nano-plague. Rumoured to have been a deliberate nano-hack by Clone -Corp and other large drug corporations, N-P swept through vast populations affecting millions. The very thing humans infused into their body to protect it started shutting it down. The nano-bots swiftly consumed and muscle breaking it down to corrosive enzymes which not only enhanced the agony of the process but also quickened the host demise. Within twenty-four hours, most victims would have endured an agonising death with no effective treatment available.
The fatality rate was almost perfect with only around 5% surviving the plague.
Those who did survive went through an internal metamorphosis with their skin crusting over in a cocooned state. Over a number of days both nano and body symbolically merged and became one. Emerging from the cocoons were technological hybrids, man and nano as one. The only distinguishing mark of the nano-fusion was the hosts eye colour. Not able to retain the normal spectrum of human colour, the iris now reflected a dull chrome.
Known as Nano-Boys, those humans not drowned in the floods of 2126 or killed in the following war are regarded as awkward, unnerving and void of emotion.
To compensate, their ability to heal is tenfold that of a normal human, their ribcage fused to protect their internal organs and all bone density has quadrupled.
Every organ is optimised making them an almost perfect human being. Rumoured to outlive humans by centuries, it is understandable that deliberate infusion of unlicence nano-bots (non-Clone Corp) still takes place with a staggering mortality rate. Those lucky ones that are insane enough to go through the process do so for selfish reasons and Razordisk certainly seems popular with the original N-T survives and the new gen Chromer's.
Cloning technology has been around for over two centuries and become an everyday resource for the rich and powerful. Now a fine art, it's almost impossible to tell a clone from a natural birth (NB) without looking from a cellular level.
Initially set up to replace organs and limbs, this emotive technology has grown and evolved to scientific perfection.
Although physically perfect, the clone retains only a semblance of memory from its host. Neuro-Jacks have been inserted on some clones to hardwired skills, memories and personality via a bio-mem chip. This is an obvious indicator of the clone and hard to conceal.
Other times clones are developed in the 'Stem-Womb' without certain organs, typically the brain. These clones are purely for harvesting replacement organs for the original host, an act that has caused the most controversy.
Clones have a high value but no formal rights as a human. Looked upon as a commodity, these 'humans' tend to lead a short but productive life as either a replacement host in political coups, pleasure clones or organ donors.
Clones within Razordisc
Clones DNA sourced from the Deutschland Dragons greatest player, the clones resemble young versions of Jonas Krause. Raised to physical maturity in only a few months, their mental growth lags seriously behind. The clones undergo training for at least six months before they are considered acceptable to field. The rest of the league view them as soulless and show little mercy during engagement. Each player has a ‘Bio-mem’ chip inserted into their neural-network which is able to ‘jack skills’ and adapt and learn others. If a player is killed, the Bio-mem is removed and then implanted into a new clone host taking those learnt skills with them.
Cloning a player takes 4 months from inception to full adult growth and a further 8 months to refine its physiological motor skills and muscle mass. On the 12 month anniversary, the Bio-mem is implanted with a basic set of Razordisc skills and rules required to play the game. With only a year’s mental development, the clones are only useful to play the game. Language, knowledge and intelligence are limited even with advanced Bio-mem technology. As the players age, they develop rapidly but it still takes around 5 years for the clone to have an average adult IQ