Iron Infestation - A Generation Zero story

I was inspired to write my own story for GZ, and I think the first part is good to go.
Hope you like it. :slightly_smiling_face:


Chapter 1.

As I was waking up, for a brief moment it felt like I was back in the comfort of my own bed again, but as my senses slowly caught up to me, the grim reality of my situation began to sink in.

The dark, cold room was not mine. I was lying on a thin mattress on the floor, tucked in a sleeping bag under several blankets. There were beds here, but I felt safer staying on the floor. I was not sleeping well. I was constantly tired, and my body was aching. A sore cough reminded me that I had left the window open. The closed curtains were gently fluttering from the chilly breeze outside.

Quietly, I got on my knees and peeked through to get a look outside. The icy air felt like needles on my face.

The view of the bay was beautiful despite all, and the pale, crescent moon was setting on the western horizon. The sky was turning dark blue, and a new day was dawning. A few stars were still shimmering in the cold air above me. I carefully scouted over the small town.

On my arrival here, I saw a sign on the outskirts that stated this was the town of Klinte. I faintly recognized it from a visit, years ago. My refuge was on the top floor of an apartment building, in a small bedroom facing west. It was dead quiet outside, apart from a raven crowing somewhere in the distance. I sat back on my mattress and huddled up against the wall.

I prepared a simple meal from some food I had stashed in the corner, and as I was eating on my makeshift bed, the first daylight gradually filled the room. From it’s appearances, considering the toys and drawings on the walls, this room had belonged to a little boy, probably no more than six or seven years old. One drawing was of him and his parents, their names clumsily written under their resemblances. My eyes teared up as I thought about what tragic fate might have befallen them, and my thoughts wandered back to the day the machines first appeared in Östertörn, almost two weeks ago.

I was with my older brother Anton, hunting deer in the mountains. It was our favorite weekend activity this time of year, and just a fairly short drive from our home in Hagaboda. We had stocked up on supplies, and left our car at a small parking lot beside a dirt road on the edge of the farmlands. From there we hiked. After a while we set up camp on a strategic perch, overlooking a small valley where we had spotted deer the year before.

On our second morning we were abruptly woken up. Military jet fighters and helicopters were flying overhead in all directions. At first we thought it was just another exercise, but something felt wrong. A thought soon began to stir in our heads, that maybe the great war between the east and the west had finally come, just now that the threat had seemed to diminish.

We decided to climb the nearest hilltop to get a better view. From the top we could see the distant lights from a town, down by the sea. There seemed to be a lot of activity down there. From the south, a column of military trucks were approaching the town. Anton had done his mandatory service in the army a few years back, therefore he felt compelled to go down there to offer his assistance. If something was happening, he would likely be summoned anyway.

Back at our camp, he strictly told me to pack up our things, then head back home and stay with our parents. I was trembling with fear and uncertainty as we said goodbye, and I could see the fear in his eyes as well, even though he struggled to not let it show.

“Just remember, we don’t know what this is yet… I’ll see you soon.” He said, as he grabbed my shoulder firmly.

He forced on a smile and gave me a slight nod, then he turned around and walked. I stood for a moment and watched him as he disappeared among the fir trees.

The fear of war had troubled me since I was old enough to grasp it’s concepts, and now I felt paralyzed by it. I struggled to focus, in disbelief that this was happening, but I managed to fill my large backpack with as much as I could of the most vital objects from our camp, including food, water, dry clothes, binoculars, my rifle and a pack of cartridges. I stumbled my way back along the trail we had come up. Rain and fog were rolling in over the farmlands, and soon I was soaked.

About halfway back to where we had parked, I saw a car coming up behind me, racing along the wet, bumpy dirt road. Without thinking I positioned myself in the middle of the road, hands in the air. The driver hit the brakes and the car came sliding diagonally towards me, luckily it came to a stop just a few meters in front of me. The elderly farmer rolled down his window and yelled something at me.

“What the hell is going on?” I walked over and asked him.

“They’re evacuating all civilians! Only military personnel stay behind. I just got off the phone with my daughter in Östervik, and I’m going there to see if she’s safe. You can hop in if you want, but hurry!” He responded, clearly distressed.

“Uhh… No, I have my own people I need to see to.” I stuttered in reply.

Without saying more he took off again in a hail of mud.

“Wait! Do you know what’s happening here?” I shouted after him, to no avail.

I kept on walking toward our car, I was getting close now. The rain was pouring down heavily, enough to mask the sounds of the gunfight that took place just ahead of me.

I noticed the muzzle flashes first. Then I could distinguish the sounds of gunfire. I instinctively threw myself down behind an old stone wall, parallel to the road. I could barely see through the fog with my rifle scope, but I saw two men in uniform down at the roadside parking lot, taking cover behind a car. The other cars there were burning. The soldiers were firing at the forest edge, and someone was firing back. I could only watch helplessly as the men were cut down by the relentless fire. In shock, I put down the rifle and struggled to calm my breath for a moment.

I peeked out again through my scope, and in dismay I saw the machine that emerged out of the woods. It looked to be almost three meters tall, shaped roughly humanoid and painted in camouflage, wielding heavy weapons on both of it’s arms. A menacing, bright red eye was socketed in it’s head. It walked over to the lifeless bodies, where it stopped and looked around. Behind it, two more machines appeared.

I was terrified, and not willing to linger any more. I quickly crawled back across the road, into a deep ditch that ran between the road and the fields. I hastily stumbled my way through the muddy ditch, back the way I just came.

After a few hundred meters I was able to slip back into the forest edge, and there I collapsed behind an uprooted tree, completely exhausted. When I regained some of my breath, I got my binoculars out and leaned over the tree trunk. I carefully glassed over the fields I had just crossed, and to my relief the machines were nowhere to be seen.

Our car was apparently destroyed, and there was no way I could walk all the way home to Hagaboda with these things lurking about. I then remembered what the farmer said, about the evacuation. My parents were hopefully safe. I had to believe that. The army must have gotten them out.

“Oh no… Anton!” The thought just hit me. My brother was going to fight these things.

My protective instinct awakened inside me, and a surge of adrenaline relieved some of my fatigue. Before long I was on my feet again. I was confused and still in disbelief of what I had just seen, but I could only see one way forward from here. I had to find him.

I retraced my steps up through the hills, and in the afternoon I arrived back at our campsite. The rain had stopped, and clear, cold air was coming in with a bone-chilling wind. I rested for a while in our tent, ate some food and changed into some dry clothes.

Later I went back up to the nearby hilltop we had climbed that morning. No more jets or choppers were to be seen or heard, but I could hear the distant sounds of fighting in all directions. Far away, brief flashes of heavy fire lit up the darkening sky.

I waited until nightfall, and then began navigating through the dark forest. The skies had partially cleared up and the moon helped me see a bit. I had not walked far when I suddenly noticed a row of flashlights, moving in a line among the trees. There were five of them.

“A military patrol! Maybe Anton is there!” I whispered to myself, and I thought about how to make contact without startling them.

I took out my binoculars from my jacket to get a look at them. One of them suddenly halted and was illuminated by the others. I saw what they were now. More machines, but not like the ones I saw earlier. These looked like dogs. They’re eyes were bright white, and they patrolled the forest like a pack of wolves. I held my breath, and I could hear the mechanical sound of their joints as they moved. I lay flat on the ground until they had passed, before I dared to move on.

Later that night, I had made my way to the top of another hill. The town we had seen in the distance now lay before me. It looked somewhat familiar. I could see a grocery store and a fire station on the southern edge of town, vis-à-vis the gas station. On the northern edge of town, the church was located, right downhill from where I was standing. Past the housing areas lay the harbor. I glassed over the whole town with my binoculars, but I could see no movement. If there had been fighting here, it was over now.

I examined the church more closely through my scope, and to my surprise I saw a couple of the dog-like machines, lying down at the parking lot. They were clearly disabled. A thin haze of black smoke was rising from one of them. Someone had fought back.

I made sure my surroundings were clear, and I began to climb down the hill toward the church. I stopped down at the main road that ran through town along the foot of the hill. I had no cover, but it appeared clear in all directions. I quickly ran over to the church, past the black, burnt out husks of the machines. They had some writings on them, still barely visible. I could examine those later. I walked around the church and entered through the main door.

“Hello? Is anyone here?” I uttered in a low voice, as I peeked into the dark hallway.

No response. I closed the big door behind me.

“Hello? Are there people here?” I said, a bit louder this time.

All quiet. I proceeded to look around the church. There were no signs of people on the main floor. On the second floor, by the organ, a couple of sleeping bags were rolled out on the floor. Some empty food cans lay discarded in the corner. I had to climb up the bell tower, just to make sure nobody was there. The old wooden stairs creaked loudly from each step I took. There was nothing up there. I decided to move on, thinking it might be better to search the docks instead.

I hoisted up my backpack and readied my rifle again before exiting the church, this time through the back entrance. For just a moment I wasn’t paying attention, and as I stepped out onto the stairs I caught something in the corner of my eye, and I stopped dead in my tracks. One of those dog-like machines was standing right there on the main road, across the graveyard. We saw each other simultaneously, and it’s eye turned bright yellow just as it gave off an alarming noise.

In the blink of an eye I shouldered my rifle. I didn’t take my time to line up the shot, but pulled the trigger as soon as the machine was in my crosshairs. I don’t know what I hit, but the soft pointed, big game bullet did it’s job. The machine erupted in a plume of fire and black smoke. Sparks rained down around it as it collapsed on the road.

Just seconds later, bullets were flying through the air. They bounced off the stone walls of the church behind me, and whipped through the hedgerows in the graveyard. Several red eyes glared at me from further up the road. I sprinted back over the parking lot, toward the center of town.

Out of the darkness, two of the large bipedal machines I had seen yesterday, came running up from the road that led down to the docks. I saw the large blades attached to their arms. They were extremely fast, and they were about to cut me off. I set my course for the nearest house, an apartment building on the left side of the road. Bursting with adrenaline, I ran for my life. I could hear a noise from the death machines at my heels, like a turbine revving up, and then suddenly one of them launched itself into the air. I felt the ground shake as it burrowed its blade into the asphalt, less than a meter behind me.

It’s failed maneuver enabled me to outrun them to the back of the building. I ran so fast I crashed into the door. I ripped the glass door open, which thankfully was unlocked, pulled it shut again and ran up to the top floor, where I tumbled over in the dark hallway. I lay there for a while and stared into the ceiling. It felt like my heart was gonna burst through my chest. The machines did not follow me inside, but I could hear them skulking around outside the building. Soon it was all quiet again. Eventually I fell asleep, right there on the cold floor.

Twelve days have passed, and I have not left this building. I have survived on the belongings of the people who used to live here. I haven’t dared to go out, not after my last encounter. It’s mostly been quiet outside, and I haven’t seen other people, civilian or military. I have seen no helicopters or boats either. No one appears to be looking for survivors, if anyone is even there. For all I know it could be the same on the mainland. I no longer hope to find my brother alive, nor anyone else for that matter. Small groups of machines patrol the town regularly. Yesterday morning, a huge four legged machine passed by the bridge on the southern edge of town. It was like nothing I have ever seen. I felt the building tremble from it’s footsteps, and I could hear it long after it was gone. In this surreal situation, I had become depressed an apathetic. I could see no way out of this.

My mind returned to the present. I got up from the mattress and clothed myself, then I walked out to the living room and looked around for something to fill my time with. I pulled aside the curtains from one of the windows, then I sat down in the sofa to gather my thoughts.

I had utilized the whole building well, and looted all the apartments. I had gathered food and clothes. In a locker, I had even found some ammo in the same caliber that I was using. I knew I could hide out in here for quite some time if I had to. My backpack and rifle were standing in the hallway, packed and ready in case of emergency, despite my unwillingness to leave.

I sat there for a while and tried to read some comic books I had found in the basement. I frequently glanced up and watched the snow that had begun falling outside. It was actually quite peaceful. A couple of hours passed.

I felt a slight tremble in the building again, almost unnoticeable at first. Soon there was no doubt. An empty soda can vibrated against the glass table in front of me. There was a deep thump, every two or three seconds. It was closing in fast, from behind the building by the sounds of it. A minute later the whole room was shaking. Things were falling from the shelves. I ran out to the bathroom in the back of the apartment and peeked through the curtains.

An enormous, two legged machine was standing on top of the hill behind the building, towering over the treetops. I stood paralyzed and watched as it let out a deafening, humming noise. The whole town was under it’s gaze.

Suddenly the giant machine twitched, and I could see sparks flying as it was struck by several bursts of bullets. The machine’s sensors turned bright red as it was searching for it’s target. The next moment, what must have been a rocket struck the machine head-on. The shockwave cracked the window right in front of my nose. The machine immediately responded and fired a volley of rockets back at its attacker. I screamed in terror as they flew right above the roof. Without hesitation, I grabbed by gear and ran down the stairwell. I burst through the first floor apartment and jumped off the lower balcony. There were other people out there. I had to find them.

The shots were clearly coming from down at the docks. I sprinted toward them in a straight line. Another rocket came whizzing out from behind a storage building. It passed right over my head, and I heard how it struck the great machine behind me. It returned fire with a heavy machine gun. Just as I reached the harbor, a hail of bullets swept over the parking lot. The shots tore through one of the cars that stood right in front of me, and I dived into cover behind a shed. The other survivors had seen me.

“You! Get in here!” A voice cried out from inside the storehouse.

Another burst of fire from the machine drummed into a freight container beside me.

“What? I’m pinned down here!” I yelled back.

Another rocket left a trail of smoke as it flew out. When I heard it explode far behind me, I instinctively sprung to my feet and ran toward the building.

Inside, I was met by a girl, about my own age. She came running toward me as she saw me, with an assault rifle in her hands, and a distressed look on her face. She grabbed me by the sleeve and pulled me to the back of the building, where a young man was reloading a rocket launcher.

“How the hell did you do that?” He looked up and asked me.

“You should be full of holes by now, running around like that!” The girl followed up.

“I just… I thought I’d never see another living person again.” Was all I managed to say.

The machine fired at us again. The outer wall of the building was dotted with holes. It was aiming just too high to hit us, but debris were flying all around us inside the warehouse. It’s immense firepower was terrifying to witness.

“No time for handshakes. Hurry, help me ready the boat! Erik, you watch our backs!” The girl said.

We ran through the back door, out to a boat house on the edge of the docks. A small, wooden boat was moored there. The girl climbed down the ladder into the boat. We could hear the machine still firing, it’s bullets cutting through the sheet metal panels of the warehouse.

“Quick! Give me your pack and weapon, and get that damn rope untied!” She shouted.

I did as she commanded, and as I was fumbling with the rope, Erik came running with the rocket launcher.

“What the hell are you waiting for? That thing is coming!” He yelled.

We could hear the machine’s heavy stomps again.

“It came down from the hill, it’s gonna be here real soon!” He said, as he climbed into the boat.

The rope came loose. I pushed the boat down the slippery landing planks, and jumped in just as it slid into the water. Erik struggled to fire up the old outboard motor. Eventually it coughed out some white smoke, and started with a rumbling sound.

It became obvious that the motor wasn’t working properly. We barely moved forward. Through the falling snow, we saw the giant machine coming down one of the streets, toward the harbor. It made some weird sounds as it appeared to be reacquiring it’s target. Then our motor died.

“No! Piece of shit!” Erik exclaimed.

“What? Well row then!” The girl cried.

There was a pair of oars in the boat. Erik and the girl struggled together to get them in place. I looked over at the great machine again, and I could see our time was up. We were sitting ducks, right there on the open water. Any second now would be our last. Right now, any way out was worth a try. I grabbed hold of the heavy rocket launcher that lay in the bow, and lifted it up on my shoulder.

“There! Now row dammit!” The girl cried again.

“No… Stay still.” I replied, as I fought to stay calm.

I took a deep breath, then I let the rocket fly. The projectile hit the machine right below the front armor plate, and blew it right off. It flew high up in the air and landed on top of a dumpster. The staggering machine spewed out a fountain of sparks, then it exploded in an enormous cloud of fire and smoke. It sounded off a deep, wailing roar as it fell sideways, crashing into one of the houses.

The three of us sat quietly in the boat and stared at the black smoke, rising from our wrecked enemy.

“My god… You actually killed that thing.” The girl said in a low voice.

“I think I did. I just can’t believe we made it through that.” I replied.

“Hey, give yourself some credit. That was awesome!” She exclaimed, as she slapped me on the knee. “I’m Frida, by the way. This is my cousin, Erik. We’re glad you found us!”

“Thanks… I’m glad I found you too.” I replied, still baffled by the outcome.

She smiled back at me.

“Do you know what these machines are? And how have you two managed to survive out here?” Were the first questions that came to my mind.

“We should get away from here, more machines will arrive soon. They can pick up noise from a long way off.” Erik interrupted.

“Could we row over to the mainland?” I asked.

“I wouldn’t try that. We saw someone attempting to cross during the first days. They were blown away by a barrage of rockets from the shore, fired by one of those machines we just took out.” Frida replied. Then she pointed her finger outward. “We planned on going out there.” She continued.

A couple hundred meters off shore was another island. I could barely make out it’s outline through the heavy snowfall.

Erik maneuvered the boat on course and began rowing.

“What’s out there?” I asked her.

“I have no idea. If we’re lucky, there might be some summer cabins, and maybe supplies. Hopefully there are no machines out there…” She paused and looked over her shoulder for a moment. “We get out to the island safely, and set up camp there. Then we’ll tell you everything we know.”

13 Likes

Very good work , keep it on. I love reading this. I think it fresh up the forum.

Thanks a lot. It’s been 6 months since I wrote this. I got started on chapter 2, but didn’t finish it. Who knows, maybe I will some time? :wink:

1 Like

Hello i have wrote a story too and it’s a big one if you are interessted look for Helldivers Diary A Generation Zero story.
Please keep your work on, your story is another good idea in the World of GZ

Have fun and agood Day

2 Likes

Chapter 2.

None of us said a word as we crossed the water. Erik kept on rowing. I could hear him breathe heavily. He peeked over his shoulder to check if he was going in the right direction. His eyes were grim and dark, and water was running down his face from the melting snow in his hair. He shook his head to get the water out of his eyes, and muttered some irritated words to himself.

I looked over at Frida, who was in the other end of the boat. She was sitting in the bottom, leaned against the transom. She was huddled up, resting both her arms and head on her knees. I could see she was really freezing. I felt terrible for her.

"Frida?" I said, but got no response. I called her again. "Frida!"

She looked up at me. In the very same moment our boat hit rock bottom and came to a sudden stop. I fell off the thwart and landed on my back in the bow. Erik got up and helped both me and Frida to our feet. We had landed on the tip of the island.

“Come on, you two. Let’s get moving. We have to look for some kind of shelter and get ourselves warmed up.” Erik said, as he unloaded our gear onto the shore. “We have better clothing in our backpacks, I hope you have a dry set as well?” He asked me.

"Thankfully, yes." I replied.

The three of us gathered our strength and pulled the boat a couple meters out of the water, where we tied the ropes to a small birch. Just then, the snowfall lightened up a bit. Away to the south, the skies appeared to be clearing up.

“Great. The damn snow could at least give us a break after what we’ve been through… I can’t even feel my toes and fingers anymore!” Frida grumbled.

“Let’s try to walk it off, okay? That always works.” I said.

She nodded in reply.

We geared up and began walking down along the western shore of the island. We were now out of sight from the main island of Östertörn. We moved carefully and kept our eyes on the trees and bushes, anxious to find out if the machines occupied this island as well. We couldn’t afford to be caught by surprise. Rowing a twelve foot wooden boat didn’t really make for quick escapes.

Being on the move again, and having met other survivors was having a positive effect on my mind. I could feel it. Cowering in the apartment building any longer would have eventually led me to a sad, slow death. The battle against the great machine was a shock, but it had ignited a spark in me. If given the right circumstances and a fair bit of luck, maybe fighting wasn’t futile after all. Maybe there was a way through all this. Maybe my family was still safe, somewhere out there.

We had only walked a few hundred meters when we came to a small cove. It was naturally secluded by a narrow inlet with steep, bare rocks and surrounded by tall aspens. We could see the rotted remains of a small, wooden dock. An old, abandoned fisherman’s house lay sheltered under the shadows of the tall, naked trees. The small patch of garden that had once surrounded it was now covered in thick bushes and undergrowth. Behind the house, a small, winding path led back into the dark woods. I felt relief, a feeling I had almost forgotten. I looked over at the two cousins, and for the first time, Erik’s grim mood seemed to lighten up a bit.

"You see, grumpy? I told you this would be worth it!" Frida said, and gave him a smack on the shoulder.

"Hmph… Good call." Erik muttered.

Frida winked at me and whispered “He’s military. Hates being told what to do…”

"All right, cut it out!" Erik interrupted.

“Hey, I’m cool.” I replied, and put my hands up to signal my neutrality. “Let’s go check out that house, all right? See if there’s anything of use there, and if the roof is still intact.”

Erik positioned himself on top of the rocks with his heavy weapon, from there he had a good overlook. I took point, readied my rifle and slowly moved into the cove along a narrow path by the water’s edge. Frida followed right behind me. We passed by the old dock. The remains of an old boat lay partially submerged in the clear, shallow water beside it. We carefully proceeded into the thick undergrowth in front of the old house. It was a real struggle. With a loud crack, a rabbit darted out from it’s hiding spot that we had disturbed. I jumped back and began fumbling with the safety on my rifle, but stopped as my brain caught up to me. I could hear my heart pounding.

"Hooh! Little bastard!" I snarled at the poor creature.

Frida chuckled as she walked on by me. She climbed up the stairs to the main door, grabbed the handle and said calmly “I’ll open it. Be ready, just in case.”

I sharpened my senses and kept watch on the door and windows. My thumb rested on the safety, and my index finger on the trigger guard. Frida turned the handle and gave the old door a firm pull. It swung halfway open, and she quickly stepped back out against the wall.

"Anyone inside?" She called into the hallway, loud and clear.

No response. We kept quiet for a moment.

“Just look at this place. Nobody’s here, nor have they been for a very long time.” I said to her, and relaxed my stance a little bit.

"I prefer being on the safe side. Look around outside, okay?" Frida replied, then she proceeded into the house.

There was little of interest to be found around the overgrown garden. Behind the house, an old, rusted metal plate, leaning against the wall caught my attention. I pulled it away, and found that it was hiding an opening in the stone wall beneath the house. I took a quick look inside, and it appeared the owners had stored some leftover building materials in there. It was dry enough to make firewood of. Frida looked out at me from one of the windows, I could see she was rummaging through the kitchen cabinets. She smiled and held up some canned food she had found.

I walked back out in front of the house, and I saw Erik coming up the path, walking slowly along the water. The rocket launcher was hung on his back. He stopped down by the old dock and lit up a cigarette. The skies were now clear, and the last rays from the setting sun pierced the dark woods and filled the cove with a golden light. It felt peaceful in a surreal way, compared to what we had been through during the last two weeks. I knew however, that this place which had once been a safe haven for a fisherman and his family, and protected him from stormy seas, would not protect us from a storm of fire and metal like the one we had faced that very same morning.

We gathered inside the house. To my surprise, the interior was in a far better state than the exterior. The air was raw, it was a bit dusty and littered with dead flies, but otherwise it was relatively tidy. The house was sparsely furnitured but functional, and it actually looked to be in some form of use. Erik and I threw our bags into a corner in the living room. Frida came out from the tiny bedroom in the end of the hallway.

"So, what have you found? Anything useful?" Erik asked her.

“Four cans of food. Canned only three years ago, actually. I also found a jar of jam that had expired last winter, so someone’s clearly using this place.” Frida said thoughtfully.

“Doing what? The dock is gone and the garden has been reclaimed by nature. Whoever is living here has to be hiding from someone! We didn’t even see this place before we stumbled right upon it.” Erik interrupted.

“That’s ridiculous. I’ve got a picture of him in my head already. Old fisherman, probably grew up here. Moved into Klinte or Kålleby to get a better paid job when modern times made this simple lifestyle impossible to live, if you also wanted a bit of economic security and food on your table. But he can’t completely let it go, so he keeps coming back to his home every once in a while.” Frida replied.

“I think I’m with Frida on this one, Erik.” I said, and chuckled a bit. “Or it could just be squatters?”

“You two don’t know a goddamn thing! If you had even the slightest idea what kind of forces that operate from the shadows around the world, you’d both piss yourselves! You can’t trust anyone these days, and you can’t afford to be naive. Just look at what’s happened out there!” Erik yelled.

"Jesus, Erik! I was just thinking out loud. Calm down." Frida muttered in reply.

A moment of awkward silence followed. Erik crossed his arms and stared into the ceiling. He was completely on edge, and he felt like a ticking bomb. He kept his head on when things were serious, but when he had time to think, something was clearly gnawing at him.

“Let’s just change into some dry clothes, and get this place ready for the night.” I urged them.

The cousins agreed, and we got to work.

By the time it was dark we had cut some of the planks I found into wood, and gathered what little more supplies there were to be found in the house. Erik hung some old carpets over the windows to keep anything, or anyone from seeing inside. We had hardly spoken in the last few hours. I guess we all wanted to feel as secure as possible before we let our guard down. Finally, when we had sorted out all of our gear, eaten a little bit and found ourselves a place to sleep, we could relax. Another long November night was upon us. Outside, it was snowing heavily again. We had pulled up three chairs in front of the open fireplace in the corner of the living room. We sat down and got a good fire going. A tingling, warm sensation crept up through my feet and filled my whole body. I shut my eyes and relaxed. It was as well-earned rest after the most surreal day of my life, that nearly became my last one. We watched the flames in silence. Vague, red figures danced around the walls and corners of the dark room. The crackling of burning wood was the only sound to be heard.

“We’re here now. This is where you were gonna tell me what you know about this mess we find ourselves in.” I said to break the silence.

Erik stared at me for a moment, and gathered his thoughts.

“I hope Frida didn’t give you the impression that we know all about the machines. We know almost as little as you, to be honest.” He gave Frida a questioning look, before he continued “We were on a roadtrip, and had stayed at a motel down in Sävered when the fighting began. It wasn’t much of a fight though. From the windows, we watched in disbelief the strange machines that had gathered in the fields surrounding Sävered Church. An oblivious driver came by, and they opened fire at him! The few residents living there panicked, and scattered on foot and by car. Soon the military appeared, with what little resistance they’d had time to scrape up… Well, those guys were doomed from the start. We watched as they fended off the smaller machines for a short while, and then two of those giant, hulking tanks came thundering in, and basically obliterated them. We couldn’t fathom what we were seeing.” Erik said, as he stared at the flames.

Frida continued.

“We ran out the back door, into the woods, and made our way north toward Klinte. We dodged several machines on our way there. Outside Muskudden we found the remains of a military roadblock. They had equipment we could use, and we, uhm… We looted their corpses. I… I’ll never get those gruesome images out of my head.” Her voice cracked. She took a deep breath. “We only got a bit further, to the edge of Klinte, before we were ambushed. We ran for our lives, straight up the main road and just barely got into the church unscathed. We hid ourselves in there for one night. We kept watch from the bell tower, and we saw some awful shit that evening. A few people who were left behind somewhere in town, tried to escape from their hiding spots. The smaller machines efficiently hunted down those who ran, while others… Yeah, I told you earlier what happened to those who tried to cross by boat.” Frida said, and paused a bit.

"The next morning we moved on toward the marshlands. We were hoping to reach the northern brigde to the mainland. We eventually got up to the Norrmyra base. The troops there were defeated as well. We hid out there for a while and scrounged for supplies. Our plans quickly failed though, as so many machines suddenly showed up around the base, that our path northward was as good as blocked. We decided to bugger out and search for safer options. We returned to Klinte the evening before we met you." She explained.

"Frida said you were in the military, right?" I asked Erik.

His face almost turned to stone, and I got a feeling that my question had hit a tender spot. It was close to what was troubling him. He didn’t answer.

"Erik?" I asked again.

“I… I am! And when it mattered the most, I wasn’t! Do you get that? All of those people fought and died, and I just stood there and watched! And then I ran!” Erik spoke into his lap, and he covered his face with his hands.

Frida leaned over and grabbed his arm.

“Erik, you’re not even stationed around here. And what exactly could you have done? I mean, really? You saw how fast the fight was lost. Your own unit may not even have reached the phone to call you, before they too were overrun. You can’t go around blaming yourself for this!” She replied.

“She’s right, Erik. To me it seems guerilla tactics are the only thing that’s gonna work against these machines. The military was defeated in a matter of hours! I really am sorry for both of you, for what you’re going through, but you survived. They didn’t. If anything, you’re lucky to still be here. Now you actually have a fighting chance, and a chance of survival.” I added.

“I’m trying to get myself to accept that.” Erik mumbled.

“I asked because I have a brother in the military. We were hunting in the mountains east of here on the first day, and he went to join the forces stationed in Klinte, to offer his service. Of course, he didn’t know what we were up against at that time. That’s the last I saw of him, so I wondered if you might have seen him, but given your accounts of what happened, I assume you haven’t.” I said quietly.

As I said it, I remembered the dead soldiers at the roadblock Frida spoke of. A huge lump grew in my throat, my mouth dried and I stared emptily into the room. I thought about Anton, and I struggled to accept that he might have been killed by this senseless enemy.

“I’m sorry, can’t help you there. I’m stationed on the mainland anyway, that’s where we’re from.” Erik replied. “We don’t really know anyone in Östertörn. We just like to go here on vacations and weekends, and we sure picked the wrong goddamn day to go this time!” He continued.

“It’s okay, Erik. Thought I’d ask, just in case.” I answered.

We fell silent again for a while. Frida fueled the fire with some more wood. It crackled as the flames intensified.

"So, the little you know about the machines, what is it?" I asked again.

“Like I said, little! You’ve seen all the mysterious bases, military installations and bunkers around this small island, right?” Erik answered.

“No, I actually haven’t. My family moved from the mainland to Hagaboda just two years ago. Before that, we’ve only visited once or twice a year. My grandfather was from Östervik. So no, I haven’t explored all of Östertörn yet.” I repelled his assumption. “But I have seen a few of them.” I added.

“That figures… Well, the FOA presence here is enormous, and insanely secretive. Back at the military base I’m stationed at, I one day got a quick glance at a map I wasn’t supposed to see. This whole place is covered by secret installations, most of them are under ground and some of them are simply hiding in plain sight. They, or we actually, are behind the machines! We have made them for whatever purpose, believe me or not. I’ve seen them up close. They have Swedish names and labels all over them!” Erik explained eagerly with a raised voice. Frida nodded to confirm.

“What the hell?” I exclaimed. I was both surprised and not. “Actually, it wouldn’t make any sense for a foreign invader to stage a full scale attack into a remote area like this, but it does make sense to choose a place like this to secretly build these things. But how have they turned against us then?” I asked.

"I can only imagine something has gone wrong, or maybe even more likely, that someone on the inside has gone rogue!" Erik replied.

“I don’t suppose we’ll ever find out. Besides, I want to survive more than I want to go digging for clues to what’s happened.” Frida added.

I nodded in agreement. Erik was quiet, but it seemed like he felt the same way. The conversation stopped. I was getting tired, and so were the cousins, by the look of it.

“I’m gonna get some sleep.” I said, and stood up from my chair.

“Oh, me too. I’m exhausted.” Frida said, followed by a long yawn.

“Sounds like a good idea. I’m sleeping in here. You two go get some rest, I’m just gonna gather my thoughts and do some maintenance on this gun I got here, and fill up the magazines.” Erik said, and went for his backpack in the corner.

He took out a cleaning kit, and a green painted military SMG with a folded stock. I recognized it’s simple, characteristic design. The “Kulsprutepistol”. Anton had used one of these in his service, and shown it to me a couple of times. Erik placed five empty magazines and several packs of ammunition on the table, and he got to work.

“Leave your guns here, I’ll look over them as well.” Erik mumbled.

Frida hugged him and said good night.

"Thanks, Erik. Have a good night." I said, and went out into the hallway.

I had picked a spot to sleep in the kitchen. It wasn’t going to be pleasant with just a couple blankets between my sleeping bag and the cold wooden floor, but it was far better than what we had expected to find on this seemingly desolate island. I slightly opened the outer door to draw some fresh air. The snow was still falling heavily, and what little I could see outside was covered by a thick, white blanket. Frida went for the bedroom in the end of the hallway, which she had claimed for herself, but stopped when she saw me.

"Anything out there?" She asked.

"Snow and darkness. Lots of both." I replied.

"Wow. Makes me happy we actually found a house! We could have been out there in the snow…" She said thoughtfully.

I shivered at the thought. I took one final look outside before I carefully shut the door.

“Let’s see what news daylight will bring, all right? You sleep well now.” I replied.

"Okay, you too. Good night then." She said, and she looked me in the eyes and smiled.

"Good night." I replied, and returned the gesture. I could feel myself blushing.

I fumbled my way into the pitch black kitchen, and eventually found my sleeping spot. I lay awake for a while, despite how tired I was. I couldn’t help but think about Frida. Something about her lifted my spirits, and made me feel more alive. Maybe it was the smiles and the warm looks she gave me when everything around us was dark. She seemed so calm and determined, despite all the horrible things she had been through. I liked that. This was a bad time to fall in love, but it might also be the last time we ever had. My thoughts circled back. What was I thinking? I must be imagining things, or my long days of solitude had gotten to my head. During his time in the military, my brother once told me about how just a couple weeks isolated from civilian life would make your brain exaggerate any signs of affection, or even a slight look from someone you liked, or felt attracted by. I had only known her for a day. Frida was probably smiling this way to everyone, she’s that kind of person. There was nothing special about me. I felt ashamed of myself.

My mind kept racing in all directions, and I struggled to sleep. I thought about my parents, and where they might be. I had settled with the hope that they had been successfully evacuated, but I knew deep down that there was no way I could be sure about that. I thought about my brother Anton. What did he think when he found out what they were fighting? Was he afraid? Was there even time to be afraid before they were overrun by the machines? Was his body lying somewhere on a road or in a field, frozen under the snow? I trembled at the thought, and desperately tried to push away the images in my head. I was furious at the very idea of war, and the senseless contempt for life it represented. I remembered my initial determination to find him, and I could feel it coming back to me. If I was alive, he could be too. I was never gonna be able to sleep now.

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Chapter 3.

“Hey… Hey! Wake up, and stay quiet.” I could barely make out Erik’s voice in my slumber, then he grabbed my shoulder.

He scared me so bad I jumped in my sleeping bag. In my confusion, it felt like I had only slept for a minute, but I could see a pale stream of daylight through the covered window. Erik was huddled over me. His index finger was crossed over his mouth. I gave him a questioning look.

“There’s something outside. Not sure what it is yet.” Erik whispered.

"Other people?" I whispered back.

“Definitely not. It made a strange, constant buzzing sound as it passed by the house, almost like it was flying, not walking. The sound has stopped now, but I’m not sure if what made it has gone away.” He explained quietly.

"What about Frida?" I asked.

“She’s awake. We’re packing our gear in case we need to go. Get your things together, I’ll prepare some food for us in the meantime. And be quiet now.” He said.

I did as he asked. When I was done, I carefully peeked out through the thick, improvised curtains. Outside, it was overcast and a light wind was blowing, whirling up the dry snow. It had fallen almost twenty centimeters of snow during the night by the looks of it. The dark woods behind the house looked completely empty and quiet. I laced up my boots and put my jacket on, then I walked on my toes out into the hallway. I placed my backpack against the wall, where Erik had put my rifle. Erik and Frida were sitting in front of the fireplace again, but no fire was lit except a small candle on the mantlepiece. The room was barely lit up enough to see each other.

"Hey there. Slept well?" Frida looked up at me and asked.

"Surprisingly well, actually." I answered.

"We got some cold, canned stew. Ugh… Looks like something a fox would eat!" She said, then she looked up at me and chuckled.

I smiled back at her.

“Stay on guard, you two. Let’s eat and be done with it.” Erik said.

After we had eaten, Frida and Erik went around from window to window to scout around the house. I took the front door and opened it just enough to peek through. Again, it appeared quiet outside. No footprints or any signs of disturbance were to be seen. I stood there and watched the small ripples down on the grey water inside the cove, and wondered what it could be that Erik had heard. Suddenly, there it was again. A sound like the one he had described. A buzzing noise came from the forest edge on the northern end of the house. Erik appeared behind me.

"Shut the damn door!" He hissed through his teeth.

He had his SMG ready. Behind us, Frida was loading her assault rifle as quietly as she could. I gently closed the door, and went for my rifle. The buzzing sound became louder and louder until it stopped right in front of the stairway outside the entrance. We looked at each other in suspense. Then a bright, shimmering red light pierced through the cracks around the old wooden door. We held our breaths, and slowly aimed our weapons at the doorway. It appeared to be scanning for movement, or it could be for heat signatures for all I could tell.

“It’s gonna find us.” Frida whispered.

A gut feeling told me the exact same thing. In an impulse I made the decision to face the problem with the element of surprise on our side. I pushed the door hard, and it swung open. Outside was a small, hovering machine with two jet thrusters on it’s sides. I saw no weaponry, but a large siren on top of it’s hull, left no doubt about what this machine’s purpose was. A lamp on it’s front turned from bright yellow to red as it saw me, just like I had seen before. I immediately fired a shot right at it’s front. The machine staggered, and was knocked out of balance. Erik stepped up beside me and fired a burst at it with his SMG. Something on the machine exploded, and in a trail of black smoke it flew upward in a loop and crashed among the rocks down by the water.

"What the hell! Why did you do that?" Erik screamed at me.

“I followed my instincts, dammit! Quit acting like you’re in charge here, Erik! What if that thing had alerted others about our location? Do you want to be surrounded in here?” I yelled back at him.

“Calm down, both of you!” Frida commanded. “We might have alerted them ourselves right now. I don’t have to tell you how far those shots can be heard, do I? So now what do we do?”

Out on the rocky hillcrest by the sea, on the path we had come up yesterday, two of the dog-like machines appeared. They appeared to be searching, and they were coming into the cove towards us.

"Shit! Here we go." I said to myself, and signaled Frida and Erik to get ready.

I crouched down and put my scope on them. There was a gas tank on top of them that I hadn’t noticed before. I fired at the one in front. The bullet whined as it ricocheted off it. I fired again, and this time I hit the tank. The machine collapsed under a plume of fire. The other machine began running toward the house, while firing blindly at us. Frida had positioned herself in a window. She fired five or six controlled shots at the machine, and it blew up and fell into the thick bushes. We anxiously looked around for more movement. Then another machine appeared, but this time on the other side of the house, back in the forest. We saw it moving in the shadows among the black, naked trees. It was one of the tall, bipedal machines.

“It’s hunting us. We have to pull the plug on this plan, and get back to the boat.” Erik whispered.

“I agree, let’s go now!” Frida said.

I quickly filled my magazine, and nodded in agreement. Erik took out an emergency flare from one of his pockets, then he stepped out onto the stairs, lit it up and threw it high up in the air so it landed behind the house. The machine howled and ran after it to check it out.

"Run." Erik whispered.

We ran back along the path toward the boat. When we got out of the cove the landscape opened up a bit, and we could almost see all the way up to where the boat was tied up. A pack of at least four machines were guarding a clearing a couple hundred meters ahead of us, and were blocking our way. We could not get out without going through them.

"Not a chance. Look at all those machines!" I said.

"I see them. More hunters." Erik replied.

"Your rocket launcher?" I asked him.

"I left it! It weighed a ton, and I only had one shot left for it." He explained.

“All right, look, I know there is a narrow sound between this island and the hills south of Klinte. If we can get over this hilltop to the other shore, swimming across is preferable to being shot. Let’s turn around and try that way, it’s not far.” Frida suggested.

“You sure? Won’t we just freeze to death?” Erik asked.

“I have a map, and I’ve studied it. It’s no more than a one hundred meter swim at most, and I think there’s good cover by forest on both sides.” Frida replied.

We agreed, then we turned eastward and carefully began climbing up the slopes toward the hilltop. It was just a short hike across the narrow northern peninsula of the island, but it was densely forested with steep cliffs, and the wind had made a lot of snowdrifts that made the climb a lot harder. We were anxious if the hunter from back at the house had followed behind us, but it was nowhere to be seen.

Soon we were on top of the hill, and we could see the narrow sound Frida spoke about below us. It didn’t look too far to swim, just like she said. It was a steep climb down to the water, and the snow covered the treacherous cliffs and made them hard to see. We moved carefully while helping each other, and step by step we were able to descend. When at last we were down, I put my hand in the water to feel the temperature, but quickly pulled it back out.

“This isn’t gonna be good. That’s extremely cold.” I said. “Are you sure we shouldn’t search for a safer place on the island instead?” I asked.

“No, we don’t know what else may be out here. Could be nothing else for all we know, and now we know the machines are here as well. We can’t defend ourselves from a cabin either. Now I regret going here, it was a bad idea.” Frida replied, then she paused. “We have to cross now. Those hunters are somewhere behind us.”

“Look, we can use this.” Erik interrupted, and pointed at a thick wooden log, floating in the water’s edge. “Hurry now, you two can go first. Just put your backpacks and weapons on the log and use your feet to paddle over. Take my backpack too, I can swim with just my weapon.” He assured us.

Frida and I waded into the sea, and gasped heavily as the cold water bit our feet like hundreds of sharp teeth. We placed our things on the log and began paddling. It actually worked. Erik waded into the water about ten meters behind us. We heard him stutter and curse as he began swimming.

"G… Go! Get ac… Across!" He puffed behind us.

Frida and I reached the opposite shore first. I could barely feel my body when I waded ashore. It felt like my clothes weighed a ton. Frida dropped to her knees and began trying to put her backpack on. Just then, a loud mechanical howl came from the hillcrest on the island behind us. Three hunters were standing up on the brink. One of them began running to the side, to circle around down to the water. The other two opened fire. Frida crept to into cover behind a large root by the beach, and I ran behind a huge boulder, sticking out of the sand. There was probably one hundred and fifty meters between us and them, so they were inaccurate, but their bullets whipped and ricocheted all around us.

"Erik! Get up here!" Frida cried.

I could see him swimming desperately the last few meters. He tried to stay under the surface to hide himself. I rested my rifle on the boulder, zoomed my scope all the way in, and aimed for one of the hunters. I fired a shot directly at his glowing eye, but he just flinched and didn’t seem to take any damage from it. Frida began firing too, in short controlled bursts. The hunter staggered. I noticed some grates on both sides of it’s head. They looked like a weak spot. I focused and was able to direct a bullet straight into one of them. It worked. Sparks were flying, and the machine became disoriented. Frida kept firing at it. It turned a bit to the side, and exposed it’s gas tank on the back. After two attempted shots, I managed to hit the tank. The machine blew up and came crashing over the cliffs toward the water. The other hunter was still firing wildly at us. Just then, Erik came ashore. He immediately got in a crouched position and began firing back at the machine with his SMG.

“No! Run dammit! We’ll cover you!” I screamed at him.

Frida reloaded and fired at the machine, now on full-auto. Her magazine was empty in the blink of an eye. I did my best to suppress the hunter and got in a few good hits. Erik got on his feet, and just as he turned around and ran for cover, a bullet struck him in the upper part of the back. He plummeted face down on the beach.

"No! No! Erik!" Frida cried desperately. "You fucking monsters!" She screamed at the hunter, while she frantically tried to reload.

I struggled to stay focused, but kept shooting at the machine. A moment later, Frida began firing again too, and the other hunter collapsed on top of the cliffs. She sprung to her feet an ran down toward Erik.

“Wait! There’s more of them!” I shouted, but she didn’t’ listen.

I ran after her. Erik was lying completely still on the beach. The thin blanket of snow around his body had turned red with blood. Frida grabbed his arm and rolled him over. He was dead. Frida cried loudly. She couldn’t contain it. She shook him gently, like a last, desperate attempt to wake him up.

"Help me, Frida, quickly! We have to move him." I said to her, as calmly as I could.

She didn’t answer, but knew what to do. We dragged his body behind the large boulders. I reloaded all of our weapons while Frida sat by his body. She looked in no state to fight right now. I peeked out, and on the opposite shore, the third hunter had come down to the water and was searching for targets.

“I’m sorry, Frida, but we can’t stay here. We have to move.” I urged her.

“We can’t just leave him here like this. We have to bury him.” She sulked.

"That will mean our deaths as well." I answered.

A familiar buzzing sound appeared. It was on this side of the water. I peeked out again, and there it was, just ten meters in front of me. The machine spotted me instantly, and blasted out a deafening siren. I jumped back. It was the loudest noise I had ever heard. I grabbed the SMG and peppered the seeker drone with bullets until it crashed into the ground.

“Shit! They’re gonna find us real soon now, Frida!” I said, and grabbed her shoulder. “Please! Where do we go? You know this place best.” I begged her.

“I… I spotted some kind of naval base from atop the hill, didn’t you see it? An industrial dock with a tunnel, leading back into the mountain. It’s right up here around the cliffs.” She stuttered in reply.

“Then that’s our best bet. Quickly now, on your feet. I’m so sorry it came to this.” I answered, and gave her a hand up.

"Goodbye, Erik. Please forgive me." She whispered to him.

The mountain over Muskudden lay above us, shrouded in fog. From somewhere up there, we could hear machines approaching.

"I want to kill all of them." Frida said, and gave me a stern look.

“I know you do. But we have to get to safety and resupply. Run now, get to that tunnel!” I said, and grabbed Erik’s backpack and his SMG.

We slipped back into the forest, and slowly followed It along the shore. When we heard the machines arrive back at where the seeker had spotted us, we ran as fast as we could. Soon we arrived at the docks Frida had seen. The place looked completely abandoned. A generator hummed quietly from somewhere behind a building. In the rear section of the area was the tunnel leading into the vast mountain complex. One of the huge metal doors was partially opened. We walked up and took a quick look into the darkness, then we lit our flashlights and passed through. We had no idea of what we were gonna find in there, or if we were blindly walking into another trap.

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I have no clue if anyone is even reading this… :thinking:
I gotta fill my spare moments with something, when I have no time for playing the actual game, so here’s another chapter. :slight_smile:

Chapter 4.

One cautious step at a time, we walked deeper into the bunker. Every potential source of light appeared to be powered down in the outer halls. Total blackness engulfed us. Not dark like the night, but as dark as it only gets under ground. The air in here was raw, and as cold as it was outside. The only sounds to be heard were those we made ourselves. I kept a firm grip on the SMG in my right hand, and the flashlight in my left. Frida followed closely behind me. We were soaking wet from our swim. Our short run through the woods had warmed us up, but we were getting cold fast. We both shivered violently and any attempt to even breathe quietly proved impossible. Frida sobbed, she couldn’t contain it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her to be quiet, instead I figured this would just have to go whatever way it went. With some luck, we might stumble over a safe place unnoticed. By the very least we hoped to find some place warmer, somewhere deeper inside the complex. Even an office or a storeroom would do if nothing else, but we were running short on time.

Frida’s flashlight soon died out. I handed her mine, allowing me better control of my weapon. We navigated the blacked out bunker for a while. For the most part, we passed through empty halls and garages containing some stored materials and locked freight containers, until we finally entered a long, narrow tunnel. The rough walls were bare, black rock, and the floor was of concrete. A thick cluster of pipes and cables ran along the ceiling. In the far end was a large, red steel door, dimly illuminated by a green light. With a quick gesture I signaled Frida to keep up. Carelessly, I let my guard down and jogged toward the door. My eyesight was blurry, but I could see that the green light was emitted by an indicator reading “OPEN”.

A terrifying, mechanical screech cut through the darkness. Just as Frida lifted her flashlight, a small machine launched itself from the shadows and came flying at me. I instinctively sidestepped, but one of the machine’s sharp legs cut through my jacket at the shoulder. It flew past me and landed on the floor a couple meters behind us. Frida jumped aside but managed to keep the light on the machine. I fired two bursts at it with the SMG. A small explosion followed, and the machine lay still on the floor. The shots echoed through the tunnel, and a high pitched noise rang through my ears. I could feel my heart pounding.

“Shit! Here I thought we’d seen it all. Look at that disgusting thing, it looks like a huge tick or something!” I yelled to Frida, all worked up.

She didn’t answer. I could see she was in no mood for making fun of anything. Her face was turning blue from freezing.

“Sorry about that.” I apologized, “Let’s see what’s behind this door. Let’s hope it’s not just another garage or empty hall.” I continued, as I gripped the large door handle.

With a firm push, the heavy door slowly swung halfway open. I carefully stuck my head through the opening. Inside was a dark hallway, going both left and right. The temperature inside was considerably higher. In both directions there were multiple doors, all of them closed except for one. A gleam of light shone through a door that had been left slightly open. Frida stepped up beside me to get a look.

“What’s in there?” She whispered.

“I have no idea, but it might be just what we’re looking for.” I answered.

We carefully closed the steel door behind us and proceeded down the hallway, anxious to find out where we had ended up. The smooth walls were painted in a simple fashion with orange and white. The doors were of the regular kind that you see inside most houses. We approached the pale stream of light. I pointed the SMG through the door first, and carefully opened it.

Inside was a military fashioned dormitory with several bunk beds and personal storage cabinets along the left wall. In the middle was a coffee table and two brown, leather couches, same as everyone has in their home these days. Several storage shelves stood along the opposite wall. There was working power for sure. The lights were on, and a computer monitor flickered from a desk in the back of the room.

Frida collapsed on the floor against the wall and wept. I got on my knees in front of her and hugged her.

“I think we’re safe for now. Just let it out.” I said calmly.

She grabbed a firm hold around my neck and cried loudly. I could almost feel her pain.

"Erik!" she sulked, "We just left him lying out there."

“I know. I’m so sorry, but we would have died out there too if we hadn’t gotten away.” I tried to comfort her and rationalize the situation, but I knew that she understood, and that she would need time to process it.

Her hands on my shoulders felt like ice. The warmth in her eyes was gone, and she looked as pale as a corpse in the cold glow of the fluorescent lamps. I got an idea. I took Frida’s arm and helped her up.

"Take off all your wet clothes, and get in one of the beds." I almost commanded her.

She gave me a surprised look. I heard how it sounded completely wrong under normal circumstances.

“Don’t worry, I won’t look.” I assured her.

Frida got my idea, and agreed to it. She sat down on a bed and threw the wet clothes on the floor, then she wrapped one of the thick, blue wool blankets around her. Meanwhile, I had walked over to a cabinet to look for something she could dry her hair with. I found a small towel and threw it to her. She quickly made use of it before she laid down and curled up on the bed. I fetched some more blankets from the other beds and packed them over her. Soon I could hear her breath calming down.

"Thank you." She whispered from under the blankets.

I had to help myself as well. I rummaged through the cabinets by the beds, and found quite a lot of civilian belongings inside them. I found a set of clothes that would fit and got changed. My feet tingled as I pulled on a warm pair of socks. I picked up all of our wet clothes and hung them up to dry over the empty beds. I jumped up and down on the floor, and swung my arms back and forth in an attempt to get warm. Frida poked her head out and gave me a questioning look.

“I’m gonna continue searching the rest of the rooms. I need to see what else I can find in here, and make sure we really have our backs clear.” I told her.

"Sounds good. Just… Be careful." She answered, and pulled the blankets back over her head.

It took me about thirty minutes to thoroughly search the rooms in both directions of the hallway. What I found was almost too good to be true. Once done, I hurried back to Frida, and called her name as I opened the door.

“Hmm? …oh, I’d fallen asleep.” She drowsily replied.

“Yeah, sorry about that, but you need to hear this.” I eagerly explained, “The steel door is in fact the only entrance to this section of the bunker, so I dare say we’re safe. Most of the rooms in the opposite end of the hall are storage rooms. There are a couple other bedrooms like this one down the hall, and also a few offices. But listen to this, in the end of the hallway is a kitchen with a full freezer and a well-stocked pantry. Frida, there’s food and supplies here to last for months! And I saved the best for last. We have bathrooms with working showers! There’s hot water!”

Frida’s eyes widened. She jumped out of bed with the blanket wrapped around her.

"Show me, now!" She commanded.

I walked her to the bathroom down the hall. She took a quick look inside, walked over to the shower and turned the water on. It was warm after a few seconds. She loosened the blanket around her shoulders and dropped it on the floor by my feet, before she walked into the shower.

“Oh! Right… I’ll just leave!” I stuttered, totally embarrassed.

I went into the kitchen and decided to prepare some dinner. I hadn’t noticed until now how hungry I was. I had eaten properly back in the apartment in Klinte, but Frida probably hadn’t eaten a real meal in days or weeks. I found some sausages in the fridge, and frozen vegetables. Fresh potatoes too. I fried the sausages in butter, and boiled the potatoes and vegetables. Soon, a delicious smell filled the room. After a while, Frida appeared in the doorway. She had found some new clothes as well, by the looks of it.

"I thought I smelled food! Wondered if I was dreaming. First a warm bed and a shower, and now this!" She said.

"Nice, right? This was a lot more than I had dared to hope for." I answered.

“Don’t know what I hoped for, but I didn’t imagine this.” She replied, “I can barely wait to eat! And hey, thanks for doing the cooking.” She complimented me.

“It’s the least I could do. Why don’t you have a seat over there?” I replied.

Frida smiled and walked over to a table by the wall. She grabbed some dishes from a shelf and placed them on the table, before she sat down.

“Anyway… I didn’t mean to make you embarrassed back there.” She said.

I swallowed a lump in my throat. I couldn’t find the fitting words to answer.

“I’ve spent all my worries on the world going completely to shit, and us barely getting here alive… So I really don’t care if you saw me.” She continued. Her tone was more cheerful now.

"Yeah, that makes sense I guess." I said and laughed.

To my joy she laughed back. It felt good to start breaking the tension from our fatal encounter earlier that day, and our narrow escape.

"What about you? Have you gotten warm yet?" She asked me.

“Not quite, I’m still thawing out. I’m gonna take a shower too when we’re done eating.” I answered.

“Yeah? I can recommend that. I think I’m going right back to bed.” She replied.

We talked more while we ate. Mostly about everyday stuff, and things to help getting to know each other. Frida was usually the talkative one, not me, and I could tell she was beginning to deal with her grief by trying to keep other things as normal as possible. Every now and then she would go quiet, and I could see her eyes tearing up. I did my best to be supportive, and to listen when she needed to talk.

My first shower in over two weeks was amazing. For the first time since the machines had appeared, I felt like I could finally relax. I closed my eyes as the warm water ran down my face. Hidden in a cloud of hot steam, I let myself disappear from the apocalypse for a while. When I got back to the dormitory, Frida was already asleep. I turned off the lights and picked a bed for myself. My head barely touched the pillow before I drifted into a deep slumber.

Six days passed. It seemed like a lot more. We lost all concept of time inside the bunker. We tried to stick to the clock as best we could, and keep regular hours for sleep and meals, but it wasn’t easy. We strived to be productive during daytime. We sorted clothes and equipment that we could use. We prepared various rations of food that we could grab in a hurry if the need arose. Our backpacks were prepared, and careful maintenance done on our weapons. Mostly though, time went by slowly. Luckily, we had each other as company. I grew more and more fond of Frida for each day that passed, but even here at what could be the end of the world, I couldn’t muster the courage to tell her that directly. I shamefully hoped my affection would show, and that she would notice. After a while though, she also began showing signs that the feelings might perhaps be mutual. I desperately hoped it wasn’t just my imagination. A couple nights back, she had pushed her bed up against mine. We could lie there for hours and just talk. We had much in common. She was easy to converse with, and always interested in what I said. Frida herself was gradually softening up again, and the trauma she suffered from losing her cousin, was gradually starting to lose it’s grip on her.

One day, I had fallen asleep on a couch around mid-day. Suddenly, loud music blasted through the door and pulled me out of a dream. I sat up and rubbed my eyes. I immediately recognized the song. Sandra’s “Maria Magdalena”. The sharp, synthesized beats echoed down the hallway. I got up and walked over to the room where it came from, an officer’s room with some couches, a table and a huge stereo standing in the corner. I peeked inside. Frida was dancing in the middle of the room. She was an impressive dancer too. She was mimicking the lyrics while the song played. She saw me standing in the doorway. She pointed at me and signaled me with her finger to come join her. I hesitated. Frida came over and grabbed both my hands firmly. She tried to lead me into some kind of dance, but I had no clue what the hell I was doing. I couldn’t help but laugh nervously at myself. I was way out of my comfort zone. She looked like she was having fun none the less.

“I’m… I’m not much of a dancer!” I tried to say, but the music drowned out my words.

Frida placed her arms around my neck, looked me in the eyes and shook her head gently. Then she kissed me. My pulse skyrocketed. I froze up and shut my eyes, and it felt like my mind was leaving my numb body. Her eyes met mine again, and with just a look she let me know that it was all right. I took a deep breath and relaxed a bit, then I gently placed my arms around her lower back. We kissed again. Time stood still.

"You are amazing." I whispered into her ear.

It tickled her. Frida twitched and laughed. I laughed with her. We held each other close and moved slowly to the music. She rested her head on my shoulder.

“What’s that?” She asked.

“What’s what?” I replied.

"That sound? You hear that?" She asked again.

She was right. There was another sound, blending in with the music. A faint knocking sound, echoing from somewhere in the distance. I walked over and turned off the stereo. We held our breaths and looked at each other. The knocking continued.

"Is someone banging on a pipe out there, or on the door?" Frida asked nervously.

“Not sure. Sounds like it’s further away, closer to outside.” I answered, “Come with me, let’s arm ourselves just in case.”

We ran back into the dormitory, put on our boots and grabbed our weapons. We cautiously approached the red, steel door, separating us from the outer bunker. We agreed to try getting a better sense of what was making the sound, and we slightly opened the door in order to listen.

Gunshots! They were coming from the last hall, outside the other end of the tunnel. I signaled Frida to stay in cover. I barely peeked out with one eye myself. An assault rifle barked as it sent out short bursts of fire. We could hear the whirring, mechanical sounds the machines made as they charged in, followed by several shots. An explosion echoed down the hallway. A second later, the gleam of a flashlight illuminated the walls, then the silhouette of a person appeared in the upper end of the tunnel. He crouched down by the corner of the opening, ready to take on any pursuers. A dog-machine came through. He fired a few well-placed rounds, and the machine was wrecked. Two more were approaching. The man got up and sprinted toward our door. I pulled the door halfway open.

"Get inside here!" Frida cried out to the man.

"Runners behind me! Shoot them!" He screamed back, as he ran the last few meters ferociously.

He smacked into the heavy steel door and pushed through the opening. Frida and I peeked out from each our side of the door and opened fire on the two so-called runners, coming down the tunnel like wild animals, she with her AG4 assault rifle, me with the SMG. The two machines exploded one after the other, and briefly lit up the dark tunnel as sparks rained down around them. Two light shockwaves was all that reached the door before we pulled it shut again.

The man stood inside the hallway, leaning his head and upper body against the wall while fighting to regain his breath. We noticed now that he was a soldier. He wore a dirty uniform and leather boots. Around his waist he had a bandolier with several magazine pouches. A standard issue AG5 hung in a strap over his shoulders, along with a backpack. His face was black with dirt and he had a green helmet with a headlamp on.

"Hey man, are you all right over there?" Frida asked him, astonished.

"What the hell does it look like? And just what are you two doing in here?" He growled back at us.

He looked up at us and shone his light right in my face. I squinted.

“Sorry. Thank you is what I should s…” He interrupted himself, “Wait! No, this can’t be true!” He looked at me and started laughing.

I was baffled and confused. The man turned off the light and removed his helmet. My jaw literally dropped.

"Anton!" I cried.

I threw myself at him and hugged him as hard as I could. He grabbed me by the shoulders and held me at arm’s length to get a good look at me. Tears were streaming down my face, and his as well.

"Really? Is this your brother?" Frida came up and asked. She looked as surprised as me.

"Yes! This is Anton, my older brother." I replied, still in disbelief.

Frida and Anton greeted each other. Anton then went over to the door and took a military ID card out from his jacket. With it, he locked the door so it could not be opened from the outside. He said he got it from someone who didn’t need it anymore, without explaining any further. He also said he wanted ten minutes in the bathroom to get cleaned up, and he asked if we could prepare some food before we sat down to catch up.

We prepared a simple meal and set the table inside the officer’s room. I sat down in a couch and took a few deep breaths. This was a lot to take in all at once. Frida sat down next to me and rested her head on my shoulder.

“I’m happy for you.” She said in a low voice.

In a way I couldn’t help but feel bad for finding my family, when she had been losing hers.

“I’m happy for us.” I answered, and held her hand.

Anton came in and sat down. He had cleaned off the dirt and put on the same pants and sweater he had worn the day we parted ways. It almost felt like I had reached back in time and brought him back.

"What happened Anton, on that day?" I asked him.

Anton ate heartily while he spoke.

“Chaos… The military was trying desperately to round up and evacuate the people of Klinte when I arrived there. I met a major who was impressed I’d come voluntarily. Said he needed every hand he could get. He gave a brief explanation on what we were up against, while I could see there was a lot he avoided telling. Nobody believed him until they saw for themselves, of course. They handed me a spare uniform and a weapon. I barely had time to change before I was sent to join a platoon who were already moving out, accompanied by a tank. We were to take up defensive positions in the woods just south of here. We had barely finished establishing a perimeter before some smaller machines began attacking us sporadically, but we fended them all off without casualties. The guys were joking at first, and speculating why the hell the soviets had sent these rustbuckets against us, and if they had put dog brains inside machines or whatever. We had no idea what to expect at any point, and later that evening, all hell broke loose.” Anton paused, and took a moment to drink.

"I saw distant fighting from the hill, back at our camp. Heavy fighting, all over the island." I answered, and I explained how I had tried to return home, but was forced to turn back in search for him.

“The runners, that’s what the guys called them, were probably just sent in to soften us up. As night fell, the real fighting force descended upon us. Large, black machines, walking on two legs. We only saw a single red light as the first one jumped out of the dark forest and cut down our perimeter guard with it’s blade. As we opened fire on it, more of them appeared behind us. It was pandemonium. Smoke grenades, bullet tracers, explosions… The enemy was everywhere. We were scattered in all directions. I ran for cover in the woods, but in the darkness right in front of me, something was moving toward us. It was as tall as the trees, and the ground trembled as it approached. It fired a barrage of rockets that flew over my head, and rained down over the other soldiers behind me. I crawled under a big root to stay hidden. The shooting eventually stopped, and the giant machine trampled by just a few meters beside me. I heard the smaller machines skulking around the battleground for a while, before they moved on. I was in shock, couldn’t even get myself to move.” Anton explained, while he stared into the table.

“I’m sorry. That must be hard, getting thrown into the fray like that, and even losing your whole platoon.” I replied, but I knew it was no comfort to him.

"Your tank, was it no use against the machines?" Frida asked Anton.

“Our tank? It got off one shot before it was taken out… That giant machine, now that’s a real tank! Slow moving targets stand no chance against it.” Anton replied.

"Tank, quite a fitting name for it!" I agreed.

“The next morning I was still lying under that root. I heard somebody else approaching, searching through the remains for survivors. I called out and he found me. Another soldier had managed to hide and survive. His name was Martin. He’s the reason I’m still here today. He got me on my feet again, both literally and figuratively. Him and I spent almost two weeks searching the farmlands and the south coast for any other survivors or even a way out of here.” Anton paused and thought for a bit, “Eventually we headed back this way. We returned to Klinte a little over a week ago, in cover of a heavy snowfall. The first thing we noticed was black smoke rising from somewhere down in the housing area. We figured it was just a fire and went down to have a look, and there lay the enormous tank, destroyed and crumbled against the side of a house. We couldn’t believe our eyes!” Anton exclaimed.

Frida and I looked at each other, "Yeah, that was us. Us and one other." I answered.

“Stop lying.” Anton said sternly, “That’s impossible!”

We explained what had happened up to that day. How I had hid in Klinte until I ran into Frida and Erik, and how we barely managed to take down the tank and escape. Anton was astonished. He had seen the machine as indestructible, and with good reason. We told him about the house we found on the island, and how we were surrounded and forced to escape. Frida fell silent. I laid my arm around her and explained how her cousin was killed after we swam back over. I told Anton about how we had to abandon his body on the beach. All three of us went quiet.

“I can hardly believe all you’ve been through, and how you’ve managed to fight back against these things… But I want you to hear this. Me and Martin were camped on top of a hill, a bit south of here when you came ashore. We heard the fighting, and how the seeker gave your position away. After things went quiet and the machines moved on, we went down to the shore to investigate. We found your cousins body.” Anton said.

Frida’s eyes teared up.

"Listen, Frida. Just south of where you came ashore, lies a house all by itself, on a peaceful little perch overlooking the sea. If you ever come back that way, look for a grave under a large tree in the garden, with a round, white stone at the head. We laid your cousin to rest there." Anton told her.

Frida covered her face with both her hands and cried. I held her close to me.

"Thank you so much." She eventually managed to say, "You have no idea how much this means to me."

“I actually do.” Anton replied, “We stayed at that house for a few days until we ran out of food. Martin knew about this complex and suggested we’d go here and stock up. We were spotted by several machines outside at the docking area. We ran inside the bunker and the machines followed. Once inside there was no cover. They opened fire, and Martin was gunned down. His body is lying out there now. Now I only hope I can get back out there somehow, and do the same favor for him.”

Frida wiped her tears and looked me in the eyes. We both knew what needed to be done.

"We have a score to settle with these bastards!" Frida exclaimed.

“We’re coming with you, Anton.” I said, “Let’s get you rested, then we’ll go out there together and find your friend.”

4 Likes

This is reeaallllyyy gooood. :smiley::+1: It is nice to see that you continue your story. Really nice. So I’
m looking forward for more.

Pherhaps the mods can create a Category for Storys because i saw more good storys.
And i think a story such like yours is a good bridge over the long time to the next DLC.

So please keep it on.

1 Like

Thank you so much, @helldiver :slight_smile:
A little feedback helps a lot on my motivation to write more. I really appreciate it. :wink:

More chapters may come, one day. :+1:

2 Likes

Nice Job man I started a story then didn’t get any support so I dropped it, keep going with this!

1 Like

Hello Admiralgamer, writing a story isn’t so easy. I think it is the first story you do and what i saw in your’s it has no real direction.
So my help:

To write a story you must have three important things

1.) The most important thing is to have an idea (a theme) what you will write about.
2.) The next step after the idea is a storyboard. It is a raw draft of your story and the red line
what leads you through your story. Roughly said it is the Direction in what your story will go.
When i start a story then i think of a beginning a main part and a end. All other will develop during
writing.
3.) Endurance and a long breathe. Some storys are running well. Some are so tenacious as chewing
gum.
It took me three months to write Helldivers Diary in my native language :sweat_smile: and another two months to
translate it in English. :sweat_smile: I have one story that I’m writing since a couple of years. Because i laid it on
side while other Storys had run better. But that has nothing to mean.

The last point you need is a good Laptop or Desktop PC with a handsome keyboard. Good Music :metal:
and some bottles of beer. :smiley:

So sit on your four letters and write, so that I have something to read :smiley: :smiley:

1 Like

Chapter 5.

The fight had gone horribly wrong. I was wounded, panicking, and now I found myself running desperately through the black forest. Tears and blood were streaming down my face. I could feel it’s metallic taste in my mouth. The end of my life seemed imminent. A seeker had picked up my trail and came flying after me. It’s siren wailed relentlessly and the maddening noise echoed back and forth among the surrounding hills. I could hear the hunting party following behind it, fixed on their prey and closing in for the kill. Night had fallen, and I could barely see where I was going. The lower branches ruthlessly smacked my face as I ran. I cried for help, cursed and shouted, but I knew no one could hear me.

Suddenly, it was as if the black curtain of the forest was drawn apart, and I arrived at the edge of a small town. Instinctively I ran for the nearest street and slipped around the corner of a large brick building. I quickly realized that I had ended up in a back yard. A dead end. An abandoned truck was backed up against a loading ramp behind a warehouse. Outside a back door lay seven or eight corpses on the ground, apparently gunned down as they had tried to escape. Hundreds of flies were stirred up and began swarming around me. Overwhelmed by the sight and smell, I vomited.

The machines had caught up with me. I could hear them approaching just around the corner. The siren had stopped, but now the unbearable stench of death blended in with a faint smell of exhaust, oil and burnt gunpowder. It was an unmistakable sign of what was coming. Just then, two hunters followed me into the yard. The warm glow of the streetlights reflected in their black paint, and their ominous eyes bathed the dark pavement in a blood red light. This was it. I was about to faint, and I could feel all my senses leaving my body. My feet could not bear me anymore. I sat down and fell over on my back. Far up there in the black skies, the clouds had parted and revealed a few shimmering stars. They comforted me as I lay there and prepared for the end. I closed my eyes and pictured Frida and Anton’s lifeless bodies that I had left behind in the forest. The next moment, one of the machines stood over me. Without mercy or hesitation it extended the long blade from it’s arm, and with brute force it thrusted it through my stomach and deep into the ground.

I woke up with a gasp! Frida was sitting on my bedside with a firm hold on both my wrists. My whole body was shaking, and my heart was hammering in my chest.

"My god! I thought you were having a seizure or something!" Frida exclaimed.

In my confusion, it took me a minute to realize where I was, and that it had all been a dream.

"I…" I struggled to find my words, "I had a nightmare… Just not like an ordinary one." I said.

Frida lay down beside me and rested her arm across my chest.

"I have them too." She whispered.

I closed my eyes for a minute and focused on controlling my breath. I felt my pulse going down, and my connection to reality returning to me. I opened my eyes again and looked around the dimly lit room.

“Hey, where’s Anton?” I asked her.

“He saw me lay down next to you last night, after you’d fallen asleep. I could tell he got the picture, so to speak. He said he’d pick a bed in the other dormitory.” Frida explained.

I smiled. Anton had always been an attentive and caring person. He wasn’t very talkative, but he rarely needed any explanation to understand what was going on around him.

"What time is it?" I asked Frida.

"About half past three, I think." She answered.

After a while we both fell asleep again, this time without nightmares. In the morning, Anton entered the room and woke us up. Despite my awful experience during the night, I felt well rested.

"Good morning. Have you two slept well?" Anton asked, standing in the doorway with his arms crossed.

I felt no desire to share what I had dreamt with them. I knew we were going outside and possibly encountering machines. We needed to preserve any leftover morale, if there was any.

"Well enough. How about you?" I replied.

“I was completely out! This is the first time I’ve slept in a place where I don’t need to worry about being ambushed or surrounded during the night.” Anton answered cheerfully.

Anton checked his watch and cleared his throat.

“I was up early. I’ve gone over all my gear, and I’m good to go. If you’re still serious about coming along, I want you to get ready. Check your guns, fill all your magazines, and pack your backpacks for any scenario where we might not be able to return here. This is important. We’ll pack food for a couple days each.” Anton commanded.

Frida and I nodded, we knew what to do.

“Please get started. I’ll prepare breakfast and food rations for us in the meantime. It will be daylight outside in a couple hours.” Anton said, before he turned around and proceeded down the hallway.

"Do as the boss says." Frida said, and gave me a wink.

"I fully trust him to order us around a bit." I answered reassuringly.

“Sure, he seems solid. You know, Erik was military too, but he wasn’t a leader. He was more… Volatile. In the end, this was too much for his psyche. I tried to help him out in making decisions, but it just pissed him off even more. I sometimes pretended to agree with him just to keep him from acting up. I feel sorry for that, now that he’s gone.” Frida paused, “Your brother seems to handle it quite well on the other hand, so we’ll follow him. I owe him that trust for what he and his friend did for Erik.” She said.

We got up and got dressed. In addition to what we had, we had found a lot of decent outdoor clothing in various lockers around the bunker. We filled our backpacks with a spare set, along with extra ammunition and other necessities. Anton supplied us with water bottles, food cans and some other non-degradable treats he had picked out to maximize the number of calories we could fit in our backpacks.

When all three of us were ready, we lined up our gear by the door and sat down in the kitchen where Anton had prepared a good breakfast. We didn’t talk much while we ate. Anton explained where Martin’s body was lying, and the easiest way to get back there. Twenty minutes later we were good to go. We geared up and assembled at the red steel door in the hallway.

"Thank you for doing this." Anton turned and said to us, as he gripped the heavy lever on the door and pulled it down firmly.

The heavy door creaked as it slowly swung open. Anton turned on a flashlight that he had taped to his AG5. It illuminated the wrecked runners lying in the tunnel. We held our breaths and listened. Dead silence.

“Listen. We do this carefully and we’ll be back here before nightfall. We go as a pair in front, weapons ready at all times. Last one follows closely and keeps an eye out behind us.” Anton whispered, “And remember, be quiet and stay alert.”

I had every confidence in Frida, but I insisted that she’d take the rear this time. Slowly we retraced our steps toward the outer bunker. The way seemed longer now than last time, but we met no resistance. Whatever machines had followed Anton inside had now probably retreated outside. Finally we entered the large outer hall. The air was freezing. The temperature had dropped considerably since we entered the bunker. In the far end of the hall, the first light of day crept through the huge steel doors, and revealed a body lying face down on the concrete floor. Anton stopped and turned off his light.

"There he is." He sighed.

We approached the body. Anton knelt down beside the friend he had lost, and I could hear him quietly speak a few words. Frida kept watch behind us. I walked carefully toward the tunnel entrance to see if the coast was clear. Through the snowfall, I spotted a sudden movement that made me freeze up. I crouched down and slowly backed up toward Anton and Frida. With a gesture I signaled them to stay still.

"What?" Anton whispered.

"Machines, outside in the docking area. I saw at least one hunter." I whispered back, my eyes fixed on the entrance. "Stay in the shadows." I urged them.

“What’s your plan, Anton?” Frida asked nervously.

Without answering, Anton quickly dragged the body away from the light’s reach. He knelt down again and thought for a moment.

"I had hoped the docks would be clear, and that we could carry him back to the villa where we buried your cousin." He finally said.

"We could take out that hunter, but who knows how many more might be close by?" I replied.

"No, absolutely not. There is an alternative. You see those railroad tracks back there? They lead upward trough the mountain and exit into the valley south of Klinte. We can carry him up there and bury him in the forest under the railroad bridge." Anton explained.

I made eye contact with Frida in the gloom, but neither of us had anything better to suggest.

“Ok? That’s my plan then.” Anton said.

The halls were loaded with military supplies and surplus equipment. Anton quickly found a stretcher that we could use to carry the body. I found a couple shovels and tied them to our backpacks. Anton lit his headlamp and we began ascending the railway tunnel. It was a heavy job, and we had to pause quite a few times to rest our arms. No machines followed us. Finally, after half an hour’s walk, a pale light could be seen up ahead. The railway exited onto a bridge, crossing over the southbound road and leading into a fenced in complex. A wrecked train was blocking the bridge. The snowfall had lightened up a bit, and the forest below us seemed eerily quiet. The temperature outside was severely low.

"Down there, behind that thicket. Looks like a good place." Anton said, and pointed to a spot in the woods below us.

We climbed down from the elevated railway and found the place Anton had picked. We put the stretcher down and I readied the shovels. Without thinking I plunged my shovel into the ground. A loud noise rang out as it hit the top of a stone under the layer of snow.

"Shh! What the hell are you doing?" Anton hissed to me.

I bit my teeth together in an embarrassed grimace. Anton shook his head. We stood still and listened for a while for anything that might be coming to investigate. Nothing happened. Anton took the other shovel, and a bit more discretely, he put his foot on it and tried to stick it into the ground. No result. The ground was frozen solid.

“What the f… Why didn’t I think of this?” Anton said to himself and tilted his head toward the sky. “I’m sorry, Martin.” He whispered into the air.

I laid my hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eyes. He was struggling to hold back the tears. He took a firm hold of the shovel again and thrusted it into the ground a couple times, as hard as he could. I grabbed hold of his arm.

“Anton, stop. Stop! It won’t work. The ground could be frozen half a meter down for all we know.” I said to him.

He was seething with frustration. Behind us, Frida was beginning to look very nervous.

"Can we please just go back inside?" She begged.

On the hill behind us, two crows were scared out of their tree. With a loud flapping of wings they took to the air and flew out right above us. Far up there, through the snow, we saw a single yellow light looking at us from in between the dark trees. The light suddenly shifted to bright red, followed by a familiar, mechanical howl. Then, gunfire. We crouched down among the thicket and looked around. We were cut off from the tunnel entrance.

"Run!" Anton cried.

We sprinted out of the woods, onto the road. Down the hill was a bridge spanning the river, and an intersection where the road split off toward Klinte, and up a valley leading into the mountains. We instinctively ran toward it. We could see the outskirts of the town through a thin haze of fog and snow. As we crossed the bridge a pair of runners opened fire at us from further down the road.

“Let’s go up the valley instead!” I yelled to the others.

Along the right side of the road leading up, ran a deep ditch. We huddled over as low as we could while we ran through it. The high banks provided some concealment, but not for much longer. A little further up, the ditch flattened out and we were forced to cross the road to find better cover. I took a quick look back. The hunter had apparently lost sight of us, and was searching around the intersection by the bridge.

"Go now, into the woods, and stay low." I whispered to the others.

We made our way up the valley, through the forest but close enough to the road to keep an eye on it. Soon, we passed by a small farm, but two runners were patrolling around the house. No choice but to continue. Soon, the distinctive sound of moving mechanical joints could be heard from the road. Close by lay a large, uprooted fir tree that could provide concealment. We crept underneath it. The hunter that was chasing us came running up the road. It didn’t see us, and it passed right by. Anton was about to break cover when suddenly two more runners came dashing up the road as well. They too passed right by us.

We lay still for a moment and listened. Far away, low concussions could be heard. The branches concealing us began shaking gently. Soon, heavy stomps could be heard from further down the road. Then another set of stomps accompanied them. Another tank was coming up the road out of Klinte, and one more up the southern road, by the sounds of it. It was the most frightening thing I had ever heard, and I could see it weighed heavily on the others as well. There was no choice now but to press on.

"Are you okay?" I asked Frida and Anton.

“No, I’m not ok dammit… But I’m not hurt.” A quick reply came from Anton.

Frida had been very quiet since we came outside. I could see her chin was trembling as she tried to form an answer.

“I don’t want to die.” She barely managed to say, as she burst into tears.

I quickly crept over and put my arms around her.

“Frida, we’re allright. You’re not gonna die. We’re gonna continue very carefully, and I promise we’re gonna find a place to stay. We just need to keep quiet.” I tried to comfort her.

She nodded and took a few deep breaths. She quickly managed to contain her emotions. I felt terrible for her. I wanted to just let it all out myself. Anton too, by the looks of it. He had crept out from under the tree and was scouting the forest ahead. If we didn’t move out soon, we would be buried in snow. My toes were getting so cold I could barely feel them.

"Looks clear. Get on your feet now." Anton said, as he gave us a hand up. "Looks like we have good cover up ahead. We should be able to move unseen." He added.

We made good progress up the valley. Between the treetops, the spire of a church came into sight as we approached the top of the hill. It was an unexpected and welcome sight, and we all agreed to investigate if the place was safe. The church would be a perfect place to seek shelter, at least temporarily. We readied our weapons and prepared to leave the cover of the forest and cross the open road. The church was perched on top of a small hill, encircled by low stone walls and hedgerows. Anton crept out of the treeline and scouted the road in both directions. He gave us a signal to follow. We sprinted across the road and up the final slope below the graveyard. Anton poked his head over the hedgerow and looked around, then he tried to vault over it, but got entangled and fell face down on the other side.

"Are you ok, Rambo?" I giggled.

"Terrific." He muttered.

Frida and I walked around the side and found a small wrought iron gate in the stone wall. Anton was waiting in the yard.

"Very clever." He said sarcastically.

"Yeah, who could have figured out?" I parried his comment.

"It seems awfully quiet up here. Shall we try the door?" Frida asked.

"Gladly." Anton replied, "Watch my back, will you?"

Anton grabbed the handle on the large, wooden door. It was locked firmly and didn’t budge.

"Back door then?" I asked, "Or shoot it open?"

"Please try before you shoot anything." Frida said.

Anton nodded. We walked around to the back side and found the other door. Naturally, it was locked as well.

"I think I can pick the lock on this one, or maybe pry it open." Anton said, "Keep guard while I work on it."

Frida and I stood by the stone wall and kept a lookout. She on the forest behind the church, and me on the road leading further north. The snowfall had let up. The air was clear and crisp, and the clouds were high. The view was phenomenal from up here. Far away to the northwest, I could see the coast of the mainland. Something inside me told me that was where we wanted to be, although I couldn’t know for sure if the mainland was safe. Leaving the bunker felt like a foolish mistake, but I knew that even the apparent abundance of supplies in there would only last for a finite number of days. I didn’t want to be on the run until the end of my days, or until the day the machines caught up with me and I could run no more. I suddenly remembered my dream.

"Machines!" Frida cried out, then she opened fire.

I was so startled my heart skipped a beat. Anton, who was fumbling with the lock, grabbed his rifle and ran over to the wall and began shooting. I crouched down and moved over to their side by the wall. A party of runners were coming through the forest toward the church. Frida and Anton had already taken out one of them. I found a good spot on the wall to shoot from. I placed the SMG on a flat stone and took out the hunting rifle that was strapped to my backpack. My crosshairs found the runner in front who was already shooting back. My first shot hit the fuel tank and the machine collapsed in a cloud of flames. Another runner blew up from Frida and Anton’s fire. A bullet ricocheted off the stone wall right beside my head. I flinched, but quickly found a new target. My shot bounced off the runner’s armor plate and left a rain of sparks as flew back into the woods. I quickly chambered a new round and again managed to send it right into it’s fuel tank. Another glorious fireball lit up the forest, quickly followed by another as the last runner fell to Frida’s AG4. The following adrenaline rush was sensational.

“That’s what you get, you bastards!” Frida screamed.

"Ha! That was awesome! You really do know how to handle yourselves." Anton exclaimed.

I made eye contact with Frida again. Her face was radiating with excitement and relief. It wasn’t funny being shot at, but I couldn’t help but share her expression. The relief however, was short lived. A seeker had picked up the commotion. It’s siren rang out through the forest. I quickly shouldered my rifle and scanned the forest for movement.

"Take that thing out!" Anton shouted.

“I don’t see it!” I yelled back.

I kept looking. Far back there in the forest, I caught a brief glimpse of the seeker as it passed between two trees. I instinctively pulled the trigger, but it was a hopeless shot. The siren kept on wailing.

"Reload your weapons, quickly!" Anton commanded.

I refilled the magazine on my rifle and made sure I hade the extra mags for the SMG reachable. Suddenly I spotted the seeker again. It had flown around to the side of the church and was about to cross a clearing in the forest. I sharpened my senses and focused. I had shot running deer before. This was no different, I thought to myself. I placed my crosshair half a meter in front of the flying seeker and followed it. Just as it entered the forest clearing I pulled the trigger. The seeker exploded in a hail of sparks and crash landed in the snow.

Then the bullets started flying again. More runners were approaching from behind the church. Frida and Anton barely peeked over the wall as they greeted the incoming machines with short, controlled bursts of fire. I lined up my aim on the rear guard, and quickly scrapped two runners as I made them share the last four rounds in my rifle. I placed it against the wall and readied the SMG instead. There were so many of them. Frida and Anton took out four runners on their side. One runner made it all the way up to the wall before I stopped it with a whole clip from the SMG. I felt the heat and the shockwave as it exploded a few meters in front of me.

Something flew in over our heads. It bounced off the church wall behind us and landed in the yard. I turned my head to look. The grenade popped open and spewed out a thick cloud of green smoke.

"Gas!" I yelled out.

Frida and Anton reacted quickly and ran along the stone wall to the southern side of the church, where we had come up. I grabbed my rifle with the other hand and ran after them. I inhaled some of the gas. It felt like my lungs were filled up with hot sand and my eyes burned like hell. Through a hazy veil of tears I could see the party of hunters that had flanked us, then I tumbled over against the wall, spitting and coughing. Frida knelt down beside me to see if I was ok. There wasn’t much she could do to help me. Anton took up a position and laid down fire on them. When he ran out and had to reload, Frida got up and tried to suppress them. The runners were close to breaching the wall on the back side. We were about to be surrounded.

"Get up! Up! We have to run!" Anton screamed.

"Run where?" Frida cried back.

"North, down the hillside!" Anton replied.

It was the only opening we had. They both gave me a hand up, and we dashed through a hail of bullets across the parking lot, over the edge and down through the forest. We had no idea where we were going to end up. My breath was returning to me but my eyes were still tearing up from the gas. I stumbled over something under the snow and fell. I landed on my side and hit my head. Frida and Anton stopped in their tracks, turned around and grabbed my arms again.

"Just a bruise. Up you go!" Frida said, as they helped me back on my feet.

We had broken the line of sight from the machines, but we could hear them running around the parking lot up by the church, looking for us.

"Stay low and keep moving. Get some more forest between us and them." Anton whispered.

We pressed on. The terrain was treacherous and the snow made it hard to find sure footing. At the bottom of the slope the forest grew denser. We stopped in a small clearing to get our bearings. There were steep cliffs to our left and below them, a small cove with shallow water. We could hear the gentle splashing of waves. Across the cove on a narrow, forested peninsula we could see a couple buildings along with what looked to be a shooting range.

“That house, let’s go for it.” Frida urged.

"Allright. Looks like we got cover all the way down there." Anton replied.

I struggled with the nauseating hangover from the gas while we pushed through the undergrowth of the snowed down forest. My eyesight was still blurry and I desperately craved for water. I couldn’t stop coughing. We passed by the shooting range and came to a small stone bridge, crossing onto the path that led up to the house.

"Nearly home now. Hang in there!" Frida said and laid her hand on my back.

I felt increasingly dizzy. Blood had run down my face and gotten into my mouth. Again I was reminded of my dream. Out of nowhere, something bit me in the back of my leg. I instinctively jerked my foot upward and turned around, almost expecting to see a huge, vicious dog ready to attack me. Instead I lost my balance and fell. I hit my head again. An excruciating pain started surging through my body like lightning bolts. I had been shot. Bullets were flying everywhere. A group of runners had caught up to us and were firing wildly from concealment in the bushes. Frida and Anton ran across and took cover behind the bridge’s stone walls. They returned fire but struggled to find their targets.

"Crawl over the bridge! Please, you gotta move!" Anton cried out to me in desperation.

I was lying in the middle of the bridge. I tried to roll over on my stomach but couldn’t muster the strength I needed. I tried to push myself but my arms felt like jelly. The deafening roars of Frida and Anton’s guns gradually faded into a distant, muffled crackling. I stared into the blue sky, it was dotted with black spots. They drifted across the sky, fluttering and growing in size until finally everything turned to black. I could feel two hands grabbing the collar of my jacket. Then I passed out.

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Hey, that’s a very good and tensing story. With that you have posted before it will be a very good and tensing GZ Story. :+1: I like it very much, so keep it up please. :+1: :grinning:

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The Music “Maria Magdalena” reminds me nice on my early days as we danced in the discotheks and wore the clothes of this time. :smiley:

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Hey I didn’t notice a new one was done! Nice job dude.

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Thats some nice stuff right there
Solid

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Thank you, I appreciate it. :slightly_smiling_face:

No thank you for writing such a nice story it was really good and I think you deserve more than just a thanks W A Y more
(Also if you get the chance write some more you left us on a really tense cliffhanger and I really want to see what’s next)

To anyone who might read this.

This story is not finished, and I do not know if it ever will be. I’m no longer in a situation where I have the time I need to write. Maybe one day, I’ll have time to both play the game again, and finish the story, but I really don’t know. If I ever get there, it might even be that no one is left in here to read it.

Thanks to those of you who have given me feedback and encouraged me to write more.

Hope I see you again some time. :blush:

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