The Warm World, My Cold World
The snow path from the gate towards the open world is an inclined one. Snow levels have risen so high to the point where they had to dig out a way to the shelter’s gate. The roar of the running engines grew louder yet, even with the sound of the raging blizzard.
[Remember, Captain Oliver. Don’t kill any of residents or researchers. As for the driver, feel free to do so.]
“Understood, Commander!” Captain Oliver confirmed orders from Kristoff. Before turning around to face his men. “Everyone, aim for the wheels of their and the driver. Cripple them and rush towards the driver’s seat. Veggs, intercept their paths!”
“Understood!” Everyone responded with great enthusiasm as they pointed their guns toward the slope.
Just as Captain Oliver finished talking, the vehicles had arrived at the top of the slope only to be shot at.
“Fire!” Upon their captain’s orders, they pulled the triggers.
They fired physical rounds on the vehicles instead of condensed energy. They were told to disable and not to kill, so their loadout has also changed. But since they used physical bullets on a hardened steel alloy that was even able to resist boulders falling on it to some extent, what’s a measly bullet going to do to it?
A wheel from the escape vehicles was derailed by the soldier’s shots. The amaroq lost its traction and slid on the snow for a while until it crashed on a vegg, the vehicle twice as large as the amaroq. It was less of a vehicle and more of a wall, a building.
A few soldiers ran up to the crashed amaroq and busted the driver’s door open, placed a collar on him and seized the amaroq. Another was also derailed and crashed into a vegg but this time, their driver tried escaping and was shot. His blood seeped into the snow as his lifeless body was slowly being buried under the snow.
The other amaroqs moved erratically, evading majority of the bullets shot at them. Some of the soldiers were ran over, either heavily injuring them or killing them. But that also bought the escapees enough time to run.
“Chase them down!” Captain Oliver ordered his men as the sight of four amaroqs were slowly disappearing into the black abyss shrouded by the blizzard.
Captain Oliver held a longer-barrelled gun and aimed at one of the amaroqs. With every second of him aiming, their figures slowly disappeared. And with a pull of the trigger, a bright light formed at the tip of his barrel and was instantaneously discharged. A beam of light, of concentrated energy, pierced the tracks of an escaping amaroq. But to his displeasure, it continued moving, albeit in a different direction.
After he finished his shot, multiple snow bikes emerged from behind him and raced towards the direction of the escaping vehicles. Its nose was that of a jet ski but its back had tracks attached to it. There were four more like those but it had tracks, but instead was levitating. Light leaked from the bottom of the vehicle and travelled faster than the aforementioned.
“Three headed for the west and another derailed towards the north. Send a smaller detached unit towards the derailed amaroq. The rest, continue pursuit to the west.” Captain Oliver gave out orders to those who had just passed by him.
They replied in unison and continued their pursuit. From a distance, two the bikes with tracks detached itself and changed direction towards the north. There were also other soldiers behind him who were restraining the escaping residents. They were like chickens that ran around while someone was catching them. But they have nowhere to run as every exit was blocked. They get too far, they were stunned by a stun gun or confronted with other soldiers near the veggs. Collars were being attached to their collars one by one while crying.
Captain Oliver noticed a strange phenomenon as the scene unfolds. The residents were shivering dreadfully. Even those who were placed under the collar showed visible signs of movement. Normally, if someone was restrained using a collar on the neck, he won’t be able to move unless ordered to. With that sight, Captain Oliver ordered his men to bring out all blankets and bring them back inside the amaroqs, no questions asked. Although the soldiers were confused at first, they followed his ordered immediately.
“Commander, the residents are shivering even with the collar active. I’ve ordered my men to bring them inside the amaroqs for now.”
[What?! Warm them up, bring them inside the amaroqs, and tow them in using the veggs.]
Captain Oliver arranged for the veggs to tow the derailed amaroqs with the residents inside. But before they could even do that, they have to restrain every escaping and struggling resident.
“Kris, that’s a bit early, isn’t it?” Lisanna asked Kristoff with her weary and haggard appearance.
“The time limit’s actually in range, especially with how Churche arranged the codes. Although it would vary for others, those who have more incomplete codes would have a shorter effect time. Depending on their compatibility and capacity, some could go on for a month or so. And now, some of them have reached their limits. Even those who got past Captain Oliver would suffer from the disappearance of the effects eventually.” Kristoff clenched his fists as he scrolls through how many residents escaped.
“Then, doesn’t that mean they are all doomed to die if not brought back here for cleansing?” Lisanna asked.
“Exactly. They are like normal humans after the effects of the codes disappear.” He sighed heavily while still enraged by Churche’s foolish actions. “Hunger, thirst, weariness, excretions, fatigue, ageing, mental instability. They would all experience those things since it was crammed into them without any support. One by one the code’s functions disappear.”
Kristoff started breathing heavily while having teary eyes.
“One month. Just one more month and we could be one step closer to the completion of the project. Just how am I going to explain this to Central? Even if the other divisions would help pay for the losses, who knows what would happen to the Übermensch Project? We might as well just hole ourselves here until we complete the LCCC and escape once it’s done. Leave the shelter and wander this god-forsaken world. Even if we use the researchers and their family as a leverage, it would only fill the cost of about ten residents. Yet there are over a hundred that escaped.”
Lisanna couldn’t say anything to him as he scratches his head and moves in weird ways. But what frightened her was Kristoff’s following words.
“Welp, let’s just destroy this whole place up.”
“What the hell?!” She shouted at him. “No way you’re doing that. Even if I agree with your earlier statements, I won’t let you destroy the place.”
“I was half joking, don’t worry.”
“You saying it doesn’t feel like it, though.”
“Trust me. Avurgaevs is still a treasure amongst other shelters. It’s just… I hope those form Central would see the value of the LCCC. If they insist on switching me out, well we would expect fireworks display for a few months.”
Even if Kristoff laughed and made him look like a nut-case, as if he was broken due to being in debt, she couldn’t bring herself to brighten up. Her hearing about a fireworks display was even worse than working on something while the Übermensch codes were active and running at maximum capacity.
She really only hoped that will not come to reality.
The amaroq that was derailed by Captain Oliver’s shot was significantly slower than its average moving speed. What made everything worse was the fuel tank having a large hole. Even with a snow-to-diesel converter machine in the vehicle, the leak was much greater than the conversion. Repairs were needed but they can’t do so since they are being pursued. Moreover, they are traversing a sloped edge of a mountain. Once they stop, the winds and gravity may push it down the cervine and into the abyss.
But they eventually had to as they were running out of fuel. By the time the fuel had run out, they had made it into a flatter surface. It was a relief for the driver and the vehicle, but not for those inside. Not only were some of them becoming weaker and wearier, they also shiver from the cold and started sleeping on their seats.
“Huh? Hey! Wake up!” One of the residents shook another’s shoulders, trying to wake them up.
The person he shook did wake up, but was now weary. His eyes squinted and blinked rapidly, trying to make a clear image of what’s in front of him.
“You too. Wake up.” Esther violently shook a man’s body from right to left but nothing happened. He was breathing, but he did not wake up. “What’s happening?”
“How is this possible?” A whitey spoke up. “The codes we installed should be in effect. They’re perfect, so why is it deactivating?”
“What do you mean?” Esther asked.
“The Übermensch codes include resistance to lower temperatures and eliminated the need for sleep. But what we see now are people feeling cold and sleepy.”
“Maybe they were not installed with it?” Erias interrupted and also asked a question to the whitey.
“That may be true. I didn’t think of that. Maybe they were part of the last batch who were supposed to be installed with the codes this week.” She spoke while sighing a breath of relief.
Only three people so far were experiencing those. The other 24 people seems to be unaffected. They were still normal. The whitey suggested to help the driver fix whatever was wrong with the vehicle but was immediately rejected.
“It’s useless. The high density shot also damaged the chassis. Although it’s not much, but we won’t last any longer than a few kilometres.” The driver answered the whitey as he returned.
“Then, let’s walk!” Zsally suggested. “The vehicle won’t move but we have our legs. We have blankets and extra suits. The sleepy heads can wear those and walk with us who don’t need it.”
The whitey and driver looked at each other, and even Esther and Erias only stared at Zsally, not knowing what to say.
“There are spare suits, but they’re for adults. One of them is a child.”
“Then we can huddle up. Like how we used to do it when reading a book at the communal space. I still feel warm.” Zsally touched her skin all over, from her arms, to her neck, and even cheek. “See? Feel it, it’s warm.”
The whitey touched Zsally’s palm and it was indeed warm. Her temperature didn’t drop at all. But, even if that was the case, going out in this kind of climate was risky. Low visibility, torrential winds from the blizzard, lack of footing, lack of distance bearing, and even the chance of being caught by their pursuers. There were many more risk factors, so going out on foot was the last option.
“Sorry, little girl. But walking is the last thing we should do. It’s so dangerous you could be lost the moment you step out.” The whitey tried explaining it to her in a simple manner.
“Then, we can hold hands and walk slowly.” Again, she suggested something. But her suggestion actually led the driver to something.
The driver searched through some cabinets and drawers and until he found them. He grabbed a bunch of ropes and harnesses and threw them on the ground. Being detached from the main group wouldn’t be a problem if they have this. And now, their only problem is their sense of direction.
Humans have long since abandoned the usage of satellites. Signals would constantly be disrupted or be completely cut off. Additionally, with how the world climate is at the moment, at the extremes, launching one into orbit would be the same as feeding millions of people for a few years.
The group that is now stuck was forced to walk towards the capital of an old, abandoned shelter. Luckily, the driver knows the landmarks but they still needed to reach the main path to have a smoother and easier time travelling. Everyone suited up, gathering all the materials they found useful. Ropes, carabiners, blankets, first aid kits, backpacks, knives, lighter that works well in snowy conditions, and torches to name a few. There were even guns that were stashed but were only given to two whiteys, two blackies, and the driver.
“Almera and Sion will be the rear guard. Nruduk and Kandral will be the mid guard. And I’ll be the vanguard. Nruduk, you hold the rifle, the rest will hold the pistols.”
Almera and Kandral were researchers, whiteys, while Sion and Nruduk were blackies. As the ones most familiar with weapons, they were the ones assigned to hold them. Although Almera and Kandral never held a gun, they were still given one.
“You sure we should be holding these, Travya? We have no experience whatsoever.” Almera asks while gripping the pistol from its barrel.
“It’s fine. It’s better than the residents holding it who doesn’t even know what a gun is. Hopefully, though, we won’t have to use these. The guns are loaded but not cocked. Only do so when necessary, like when we’re forced to fire.” Travya answered her.
“Shouldn’t you be holding it, then? Since you’re a part of the military and the vanguard?” Nruduk spoke.
“We’re still in a mountain path with lots of twists and turns. That’s one big rifle, so moving around twists and turns would be a hassle. Plus, I’ve got my helmet with me. It has lots of sensors and optics, so I can zoom in while looking around.”
“Ohh! That’s quite convenient.” Kandral spoke.
“Now, let the residents wear thick clothes. Even if they have those codes with them, we can never be too careful.”
“Alright.” Almera agreed.
Everybody suited up. Thick and warm clothes, coats, even boots for the adults. Unfortunately, there were no kid sized ones. With a series of carabiners, they used the ropes to tie themselves together, effectively forming a line with them in tow. Sion at the very back and Almera a few heads in front, Travya at the very front and Kandral a few heads behind him, and lastly Nruduk at the centre. In between them were the residents.
With nothing else to take with them, they began their long hike towards the old capital.
NOTE: Hello guys. I'll start publishing chapter in a different time zone starting next week. I'll be publishing in GMT+8 time zone instead of BST. Although time zone changed, I'll still be publishing on the weekends.