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D'Arc - Series Intro

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posted on Mar, 18 2017 @ 08:06 PM
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D'Arc (Intro)

From around the corner came a soft mechanical hum and
click. Then another.

Blast, Tepa thought as she crouched, back against a crumb-
ling wall. A bead of sweat found it's way past her brow and
rolled into an eye, but she dared not wipe it away, lest the
furtive movement be heard.

“We’ll be best friends,” an unseen voice said.

Fleeing should be the only thing on her mind, a wild run out
into the open where she might stand a chance. But.

But-but-but-but-but.

The sounds and the voice did not go together. As Greenly,
the most experienced of the Collectors, liked to say: The
times they are a changing.

He was right, and this... she absolutely had to risk a peek.
Glancing back where she had entered, a hole in the building
wall, she calculated. It was about fifteen feet away and led
outside. But there was another wall, cinder block, right
there, so she’d have to hoof it another twenty between
them to actually get clear.

Too far. Too long.

She bit at her lower lip. Not being detected would be pre-
ferable. If she was, well... she had the D’arc cannon. That
would mean unslinging it from her back and bringing it to bear
in close quarters.

A crap shoot either way.

Trembling, she shifted her weight, leaned out, and craned her
neck until she could see around the corner with a single eye.

The room was a disaster. Tattered remains of Prepoc luxuries
were strewn everywhere- mostly trash that no Collector would
bother with, including a battered sofa leaning on two remaining
feet, it’s fabric faded to a fleshy tone that made it appear a
bloated corpse.

Another click and hum.

Right in the middle of the mess, a Player hunched on it’s cords,
spider-like, and scraped through a pile of silver discs. Across sat
a faux furred toy bear, it’s back to her.

As she watched, a disc was picked up, deemed too broken and
tossed. The bear pushed another in front of the device for
inspection, and after finding it acceptable, the Player loaded it
into it’s front slot.

Someone gasped.

Tepa’s eyes widened. Not someone- she had.

The bear’s head swiveled around, body motionless, until it
reached an impossible angle and fixed on her with it’s glowing
but lifeless eyes. “Wanna hug?”

...continued in next post.




posted on Mar, 18 2017 @ 08:16 PM
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“Gah!” Tepa swore as she pivoted into the room and, in a long
practiced motion, unslung the D’arc cannon, flipped the safety
and squeezed the trigger. Jagged flashes of energy crackled
out, mini lightning bolts that flicked back and forth, until one
struck the bear, making it emit a squawk and fall over, face
down.

As for the Player, it moved so fast all Tepa could do was wave
the cannon in it’s direction as it leapt onto the ceiling and
darted forward.

Tepa dumped the weapon as the crackling sparks died out. It
would take a moment to recharge. A moment she didn’t
have.

Doubled over, chest heaving, Tepa spun in a slow circle, Blunder-
gauss at the ready, and waited. After dropping the D’arc cannon,
she’d shucked her pack and left it there too. Once through the
hole, rather than skirt the cinder block wall she’d vaulted it, a
possibly she hadn’t considered without the adrenaline coursing
through her.

A minute passed. Two. Five.

Where was it, she wondered.

Spotting any motion was made all the more difficult by a light
breeze; unkempt bushes wavered, overgrown weeds swayed,
scraps of fabric and plastic fluttered from their perches in a leaf-
less tree.

From out of a thick patch of quackgrass, the black rectangular
creature made an appearance, limping as though stricken.

Tepa took aim, waited for it to get in range, but the Player staggered,
fell to it’s side, then rolled over, it’s cords and wires curling up, dead
spider like, and laid still.

Tepa relaxed. What a relief. She’d hit it after all. Still ready with
the double barreled weapon, she nudged the creature with her
booted toe, but it remained inert.

Time for dissection. She knelt, fished out a pliers and flat screw-
driver, intending to split the plastic casing in two. The greenboard
within would yield gold, the wiring other metals, plus there would
be the big payoff- chips (or what the salvagers called processors).

“Wanna hug?”

The question sent a chill through Tepa’s spine. Turning she saw
the bear marching closer. It’s scraggly brown fur was singed and
one eye had gone dark and dangled by a wire.

She spun, reaching for the Blundergauss, but as she did, the Player
came alive, flipped upright, and shot a silver disc out of it’s slot,
clipping her in the forehead.

As she fell the world slipped into slow motion: the shiny projectile,
broken in half, tumbling through the air spraying her blood from it’s
edge, the Player leaping forward and wrapping it’s wiry appendages
around her neck- a powerful choking grasp that immediately made
her tongue protrude.

She didn’t recall hitting ground, but as her arms flailed at the
Player’s casing, across the raised letters that read Blu-ray, her
sight grew dim, and the bear loomed into view and rasped one
final statement.

Bear: “It’s nappy time.”

______________________________________________________

"Wot's that, Grand pappy?"

"A motorcycle," came the distracted answer.

"Wot's that, Grand pappy," the little girl asked as she pointed at
another picture.

The book in question had been scavenged only a week ago, but
the elder was already beginning to regret it. "A car," he said
after glancing at the page. Then, when she pointed again but
before the question was asked, "And that's an airplane."

"Hairpane..." the little girl repeated as she studied the gaily
colored marvels surrounded by smiling cartoon style characters.

The elder didn't bother to correct her, no point.

Making a decision, the curly haired child stated, "I wanna modo-
sickle, and-a car, and-a hairpane..." She looked up with a raised
eyebrow- it wasn't quite a demand, more a challenge.

"I'm sorry," the elder said, making the little one's face switch from
hopeful expectance to a bitter frown. "Only the Prepocs could
use those things," he continued. "But now, it's all merely junk, or
worse."

The little girl turned the page, the final one, and across it and
the inside back cover was a drawing of the Earth, or rather, a half
circle of it; blue water with green squiggles of land. Above, some-
one had added a crude lightning bolt and awkward letters that
spelled D'Arc.

"Wot's that?"

The elder sighed then glanced at the image. "Nothing lasts forever,
sweetheart," he said. "Not even the paradise of the Prepocs."

"Wot happened?"

As his chin drooped to his chest, Grand pappy’s eyes gently closed -
the shock of the world changing event flooded back. He'd been
this child's age when it happened. Afterward, there was no
explanation, only rumors and conjecture- and little enough of that.

In this instance, a simpler answer would have to do:
"It all came to an end," he said, "by a bolt out of the blue."



end intro



posted on Mar, 19 2017 @ 03:02 PM
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part one


"You okay?”

Drawing a sharp breath, Tepa’s eyelids fluttered. Around her
stood a blurry group of people. She groaned and rolled over
to her knees, reached for her neck to relieve the pressure
still there and found a single wire which she peeled off with
a grimace.

“We thought you were done for,” another, much younger
voice chipped in. “What happened anyway?”

Her vision clearing, Tepa realized there were only two sets
of legs, and all around them were scraps of plastic casing
and pieces of torn faux fur. “I’m not sure,” she said as she
clambered to her feet and focused on the two men.
“Greenly?” she stammered in recognition.

Greenly gave the slightest of nods, then stooped to pick up
half of the bear’s head. It flapped like an empty bag, all
the techknow gone, so he tossed it to the younger man.

His son, Greenly Junior, caught it, shook it himself, then used
it to point at Tepa. “Someone sure saved you, looks like.”

“Yes,” Tepa agreed. The two creatures had been thoroughly
dismantled. Most of the wires were gone, all of the green-
board, and of course any chips they’d contained. “Greenly.
The two of them, a Player and techknow bear. They were
working together. Cooperating.”

Greenly didn’t react to the revelation, but merely asked,
"Tepa. Where’s the D’arc cannon?” His eyes slid to his son,
and they exchanged a critical glance.

“Gah!” Tepa swore.


They duck walked to the tree decorated with garbage, with
Greenly giving a hand signal to stop while he surveyed the
scene.

The house wasn’t much to look at. A two level, mostly wood
with a six foot line of brick around the bottom. The roof had
collapsed into the second floor and a fire had left black streaks
on the back corner. A seven foot high decorative cinder block
fence surrounded it- it’s pattern allowing them to see through
to the hole Tepa had entered through.

Junior sidled over to Tepa and whispered, “Shouldn’t treat a
cannon like that. Last techknow the Prepocs ever made. No
one even knows how many are left.”

Tepa looked away; she didn’t need to be admonished by a boy,
but he continued to press.

“I’m turning sixteen tomorrow. Soon I’ll get my own cannon,
after First Time.” He reached out and stroked the D’arc
weapon slung across his father’s back. “Ain’t no way I lose
mine like you did.”

“Oh shut up,” Tepa snapped as she threw him a glare. “This
is probably as far out as you’ve ever been...”

Greenly cut the chatter with a flap of his hand and said to
them, “As I see it, there’s two possibilities. First, there’s
more creatures inside. That seems unlikely because you’d
be dead. Second, there’s a Collector in there, kifing your
gear. Seeing as he hasn’t made an appearance, it’s probably
someone we don’t know. Meaning danger.”

Junior made a show of checking out the abode, bobbling
his head this way and that, then settled down and said,
“Can’t see nothing, Pa. What if he’s done left already?”

“Good point, son,” Greenly nodded in approval. “So.
What do we do in this situation?”

Junior unslung his blundergauss and rested it across his
knees as he pondered the question. A full minute passed.

With an annoyed sigh, Tepa reached for the weapon and
said, “I’ll just-”

Greenly grabbed her wrist. Held it there. And to Junior,
“Well?”

After sliding away from Tepa, along with the gun, Junior’s
eyes lit up and he blabbered his answer, “Send Tepa in first?”

“That’s right,” Greenly answered.

Tepa freed her arm with a twist and made a move for the
blundergauss again. “That’s what I was about-”

Junior pulled away, shaking his head. “Nope. Nuh, uh. Your
gear is inside. Maybe.”


The duo followed Tepa as far as the hole, and after she
disappeared inside, Greenly turned and said, “Always remember
the Collector credo...”

“Look out for number one,” Junior said. Then, once he’d seen
his father’s approval, he added the joke often heard from other
Collectors. “Or you’ll find yourself going number two.”

“Ain’t that the truth,” Greenly muttered.

Tepa appeared in the opening, her hands empty. “The cannon.
My pack. Everything. Gone.”

“Too bad for you,” Greenly said as he stood upright, pulling
his son with him. “I suggest you spend some time searching
the area. As for us, we’re overdue at Silo.”

“Overdue? For what?” Tepa asked.

Greenly flipped a thumb at Junior. “His first time is coming
up. And I have a feeling there’s going to be a vacant Collector
position in the very near future. Good luck.”

Lips pursed, Tepa fumed as she watched them go. Greenly
could be right- D’arc cannons weren’t owned, they were
loaned. Same for the blundergauss, though they weren’t
nearly as rare.

But there was no way she was wandering around unarmed.
One more quick look and she’d head back herself.

Disgruntled Silo authorities be damned.

________________________________________________


Much later in the day, Junior sat by the fire and used a
small stick to tease the coals in it’s deepest parts. They had
started out heading back to Silo, but after an hour they’d
taken a sharp turn south without his father saying why.

Normally, the detour might not have meant anything unusual,
but once they’d settled and build the fire, Greenly set about
inspecting and cleaning all of the guns and gear. All the while,
Junior’s stomach began to clench, tighter and tighter.

Junior: “We’re not going back, are we?”

“Nope,” Greenly answered as he polished the field glasses.

“But you told Tepa...”

Greenly gave one more rub to a lens then put it back in it’s
case. “Remember son, the whole world is still in competition
with itself.” He stared into the flames for a moment then
continued. “Dreams can still go up in smoke. Imagine if we
stumbled on a great find, and someone, like Tepa, followed
our back trail. What would stop her from claiming it herself
first chance she got?”

“So, say one thing, but do another?” Junior asked.

“Good boy,” Greenly said. “Besides, I already spoke with Bo
from Silo- we’re doing your First Time a day early.”

Junior had been sitting cross legged, but now he drew them
in and wrapped his arms around his knees and rocked gently.
At the moment, they were surrounded by countryside not
dissimilar from what Junior had grown up in. Fields and fences,
leafy trees and bushes, there was even a farm visible in the
distance.

Tepa had been correct. The broken down house had been
as close to the remains of the Prepoc world as he’d ever
been. But in less than a day, just hours even, he’d be
headed straight into the middle of it all.

It was a strange feeling, knowing that the previous civil-
izations wonders lay out there for the taking. Exhilarating
even. Too bad it was tainted by the techknow horrors that
lurked there.

“Pa, I’m afraid.” Junior whispered.



end part one

edit on 19-3-2017 by shlaw because: corrections



posted on Mar, 25 2017 @ 02:41 PM
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part 2


Greenly's eyes snapped open the very instant he heard
the mechanical click, despite the fact he’d drifted into
a deep slumber. For one terrifying instant he thought
he had faltered. He’d left Junior to guard, but they
were much loser to danger than the boy knew.

Another click followed by a metallic ping- and as he lurched
up to a sitting position he let out a sigh of recognition and
relief.

“Sorry, Pa.” Junior said. In his hand was Greenly’s coveted
lighter, a zippo collected two weeks ago. Junior flipped it
closed and after a few seconds flicked it against his trouser
leg, like he’d seen his father do, once to open, the second
to light.

Annoyed, Greenly held his hand out for it. He had no idea
how long the relic would last. “Don’t waste it, boy.”

Reluctantly, Junior returned it, but not before taking one last
look at the etchings on either side: In God We Trust, and on
the reverse a dollar sign.

Junior: “Was that their God?”

“I suppose so,” Greenly answered as he tucked it away.
“Didn’t do them much good, did it?” He got to his feet,
stretched, took a good long look around, and after deciding
the threat level was low, started to gather his things.
“C’mon. Rusty Road awaits.”

__________________________________________________

Much to her chagrin, Tepa found herself returning to Silo
empty handed.

When she got to the top of a meandering ridge line, the fort-
ress came into view below. Actually the installation was
completely underground; what gave it away was the gaggle
of carts and tents crowded around and above.

The tantalizing scent of cooking meat wafted up, along with
the not so tantalizing stench of sweat, beasts of burden, and
livestock.

Tepa let her gaze drift across the horizon. Past the milling
crowd, over the bushes and fields, to the hills and what lay
hidden beyond.

Maybe she should just keep going, Tepa thought. There were
other Silos. Places one could start over again. She let out a
long, glum exhale. Had she made a mistake? It was ill advised
to collect in such close quarters, but she’d done it before.
Sometimes the best relics were found where others dare not
tread.

She kicked a lump of dirt and swore. Right now Greenly was
probably telling Junior how terrible she was at collecting.
Like he never had any mishaps along the way. He never even
listened when she told him the creatures had teamed up on
her.

She swore again, then headed down. At the very least she
should inform Lambert. The times were indeed changing.

Falling in beside a trundling cart, Tepa looked up to see a
girl’s curly blonde head peering at her over it’s wooden side.
Small fingers appeared and wiggled a greeting.

“Hi, Tepa.” Lux said.

Her father, Beeyar, tugged on the reins, bringing the mule
and the load to a stop, and after shifting in his seat, said,
“You look a tad light.”

Her face turning almost as red as Beeyar’s hair, Tepa grimaced,
then said with a shrug, “Got cleaned out. Long story.”

“Always is,” Beeyar said. “Guess I won’t ask if you have chits
to buy a bag of my apples or turnips.” He flicked the reins
to get underway again. As the cart clattered by a turnip and
two apples fell off the end. The gir, Lux, put a hand over her
mouth, an oops gesture, then waved before climbing up beside
her father.

Tepa scooped up the gifts then waved back, grateful she still
had at least one friend.

After making her way through more than one curious stare
and the odd accusing glare she approached Silo’s trading post.
This was not one of the traveling traders, nor one of the
regular stalls, it was where Collectors cashed in their finds,
or gained access to Silo itself, or reported any important
news. Such as the loss of a cannon.

“Where’s your D’arc cannon?” were the first words out of Bo’s
mouth. He was a portly middle aged man, grizzled and un-
kempt, which was odd for a Silo denizen. Like most here, he’d
never done a day of collecting in his life. Tepa resented the
tone of his question.

“Gone,” Tepa grumbled. “I was jacked.” The small lie wouldn’t
matter. Bo was not the one to be concerned about. It was his
brother and installation overseer, Lambert.

“Oh, Lambert’s going to want to see you,” Bo nearly chortled
as his belly bobbled.

“Fine.” Tepa snapped. She headed for the sunken stairs that
led to the massive entry door.

“Whoa,” Bo said as he stepped around the counter and laid
a hand on her shoulder. “He’s busy with Big Brain right now.
You wait.”

Tepa brushed of his hand then settled down into the dirt
right there. If previous experience was any indicator, she
might be here for a while.

___________________________________________________

"Incredible," Junior gasped.

A long line of rusting vehicle husks snaked before them,
down a long stretch of dust coated asphalt. There must be
hundreds, Junior marveled. Thousands. In some spots the
metal skeletons lay only two deep, but in others, six.

The curious scene reminded him of the many small hills at
which he’d spent many an hour, just staring. “Ants, Pa. The
Prepocs. They traveled together like ants.”

“I suppose they did,” Greenly said. “We call this the Rusty
Road. If you look hard, you might spot the once mighty bridge
that leads to Shard City.”

Junior raised a hand to shield his eyes, and traced the line to
where it vanished in the distance. “Can’t see nothing, Pa.”

“Not unusual,” Greenly observed. “There’s a fire in Shard that
some say has been burning since D’Arc. On a bad day the haze
is quite thick.” He shifted his pack, double checked that the
cannon was charged, then said, “C’mon. You haven’t seen
nothing yet.”


Even the skeletons had skeletons.

Junior crept up to a car frame and peered at the human
bones inside. Nary a scrap of flesh or strand of hair remained,
and this one’s skull was laying in it’s bony lap. He tentatively
rested a hand on the flaking metal door, and when he lifted
it, found a red brown streak across his palm. After wiping it
on his pants, his eyes went to the next car, and the next.
“So many,” he wondered. “All alive and the next moment...”
He snapped his fingers to finish the statement.

Greenly didn’t answer back; his own wonder had died many
years ago. Not only that, but somewhere nearby, he could
hear a rasping sound, like a twig rustling against the window
of their cabin. But, rather than sounding random, this sounded...
desperate.

With a sharp wave, he caught Junior’s eye, gave the signal to
be ready for anything, and the two crouch walked between the
husks, searching.


end part 2



posted on Mar, 25 2017 @ 10:02 PM
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bah... sorry about the mistakes guys.
I really hate the limited edit window.




posted on Mar, 28 2017 @ 09:16 PM
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Part 3


"How's" it dangling, partner?”

Bo looked up from the box he’d been rummaging
around in, saw his friend, Chockler and returned
to rummaging. “Not funny. Cords and wires...”

“...are explicitly banned from Silo,” Chockler
finished for him. “I know. I know.” He brushed
his hands against his pants, though why was hard
to say for sure- Chockler was the terminally dirty
type. He poked his nose into the box. “Whatchoo
got there?”

“Prepoc treasure,” Bo confided with a wink. He
drew forth a plate, it’s edge slightly chipped,
and waved a hand across it, presentation style.
“Feast your eyes on the King of the Prepocs.”

Chockler let out an impressed whistle. Painted
on the plate was a picture of a man with an overly
coiffed hairstyle. He appeared to be singing.
Above the portrait was a name- Elvis - and below
him, a declaration- The King.

Bo wrapped an arm around his friend’s shoulders
and reeled him in close. “And because we’re such
close mates, I’m willing to let you have this one
of a kind relic for a mere twenty chits.”

“Gee..” Chockler mused as he admired the offering.
It was an awfully good price. Making up his mind,
he dug out a twenty chit piece and handed it over
with a grin. “Done.” He huffed a breath at his
prize then rubbed off a smudge with a much too dirty
sleeve.

Bo: “No refunds.”

Chockler: “Refunds?”

Bo dug out another plate, identical but with it’s
own assortment of chips.

“Hey, you said this was one of a kind,” Chockler
complained.

“It is,” Bo insisted. “And if you want your investment
to retain it’s value, you’ll ignore the other nine I’ve
got in here.”

“Right,” Chockler said, though his puzzled look indicated
he was still wrestling with the logic. Out of the corner
of his eye he spotted one of the traveling merchants
approaching, a regular named Ash. “Here comes a mark
now,” Chockler whispered.

“Gentleman,” Ash said as he pushed up his wide brim hat,
and nodded at the two friends. He adjusted the sack slung
over his shoulder then motioned at the box. “Anything
interesting?”

“Nope,” Chockler said as Bo stashed the box behind the
counter. “But feast your eyes on this.” He presented
the plate as Bo did moments ago. “Looky, it’s the king
of the Prepocs. A rare thing this. You ever see the
like?”

Ash, unimpressed, cleared a nostril with a rough sniff.
“Why yes, indeed I have, chap. Twelve hundred of them
as I recall. Salvaged from one of those huge rectangular
metal boxes Prepocs used to haul stuff around.” He
kicked a heel against the other, knocking off a bit of
dirt, then added, “One on it’s own might be worth a few
chits, but with that many floating around... have to say
it ain’t worth chit.”

Chockler: “Ah, chit.”

Bo winced at the assessment, then said, “You’re not
staying around for long, are you?”

“Nope,” came the satisfying answer. Ash hefted his
sack onto the counter and it landed with a metallic
clink. “Just came to sell this vintage piece of
techknow, if the price is right.” He upended the bag
and a silver toaster plunked out trailing a three foot
black cord, it’s plug end still intact.

“Gah!” Bo and Chockler both swore as their hands went
up in terror.

“Kill it before it mates,” Chockler yelled.

Bo ducked under the counter and came up with a D’Arc
cannon stashed for just such an instance.

“Whoa, whoa,” Ash said as he pushed the weapon’s barrel
away. “Take it easy. I’ve checked it out. There’s no
greenboard. No chips. Just sweet, sweet, techknow.”

“What is it?” Chockler asked as he poked it sharply
and just as quickly drew his finger back.

“Don’t know,” Ash admitted. He worked the lever on
the side and added, “Look. You push this down and
the wire mesh in the two slots narrows.”

“Hmm,” Chockler hmm’d. He wiggled his fingers, weighing
the threat, then stuck his hands into the two slots.
“I figured it out. They’re electromittens! Boy those
Prepocs were smart.”

“Huh,” Bo said at the revelation. He narrowed his eyes
at Ash. “I’ll trade you nine Elvis plates for it.”

Ash: “Don’t even...”


"One hundred chits,” Chockler crowed after Ash had
taken his leave. “What a steal.”

“Well, we’re the only ones with working power sockets,”
Bo reminded him. “What else was he going to do with it.”

“We should try it out,” Chockler suggested. He glanced
around furtively. “Where’s Lambert?”

“Tending to Big Brain,” Bo said. His eyes slid to Tepa,
still sitting in the dirt not too far away. “Hey, you.
Watch my stall. We’ll be back in a bit.”

Tepa: “Gah...”

________________________________________________

Back at his rig, Ash walked completely around it, looking
for any sign of mischief. Everything appeared in order
and in it’s place.

The four mules hitched to the front of the reclaimed tow
truck shuffled restlessly. While the vehicle was a mere
skeleton of it’s former self, it was still very massive,
which was perfect. Such a heavy rig was less prone to
being boarded and galloped off by would be thieves.

As for the so called electromittens, he wasn’t concerned
about trading them away. He’d found something much more
interesting last trip. And that was locked away in the
metal box that was welded to the back of the cab, under
the makeshift canvas canopy.

He climbed into the back, rubbed his palms together, then
unlocked the chest and peered within. An instant later
his face was lit by a soft glow from within.

The how, what, or why, he didn’t know, but one thing was
for sure- the times were indeed a changing.



end part 3



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