"These graduates have displayed plenty of the skills needed for dealing with AEs, and now have moved from F-class units to E-class units, " The school principal said, "Now that they have completed their training, all these new graduates will be sent to reserve until a need arises. Good luck. " The crowd began to cheer and clap, and I kept standing on the stage, emotionless.
I was now E-128654, a unit within the World Abnormal Specialist Program, or WASP. I had been training for six years to deal with AEs, unexplainable entities that the rest of the world was unprepared to deal with. I had been recruited when I was 14 after middle school, offered a job after finishing school and a chance to reset all my mistakes. It had been an easy decision, and the Program wiped me from official records and other's memories as soon as I said yes. I moved to the Academy in Oregon, living in the underground complex and training as well. I was twenty now, and headed into reserve until the next AE appeared. More appeared constantly, and it was rare to go a day without a new AE appearing. WASP had been formed right after WWI when a large group of US marines was almost wiped out by the first recorded AE. The few that survived were all but insane, and as soon as the fighting stopped WASP was formed. We operate separate from any other government organization, above their laws, and in the shadows. The Program had access to advanced technology the rest of the world was barely beginning to create, thanks to several encounters with advanced cultures. The Program also had its own private space fleet for the occasional alien invasion, but the only Program units up in space came from the Academy in AE-793844, a friendly space-faring dimension.
The graduation ended and the entire class headed to the transport modules, cylinders large enough for a human that were teleporters. We were all transported to reserve and settled in. If we were needed, we would be notified. I headed to the shooting range to clear my head, and started practicing with a large pistol. Classes had been tough in the Academy, ranging from memorizing all 500000 plus AEs to combat with boomerangs and throwing bolas. We had to prepare for anything, so we were trained for everything.
I spent three days in reserve, and then I got my first assignment. I ran to the briefing room and waited as the large room filled with several hundred E-units. Once the room was full, a D-class officer came in. The room was quiet as we waited for our assignment. "There is a new AE, AE-715793. AE-715793 is a trans-dimensional breach to another world, which, unfortunately, is hostile. " he clicked a button and a large hologram appeared in the room depicting a humanoid wearing what looked like viking-era armor. "The world is inhabited by a humanoid warrior race with a technology level from just before our medieval time period. They are armed with bows, swords, clubs, primitive catapults, and these. " Another hologram appeared next to the humanoid, a large scorpion about waist high on the humanoid with a stinger even rising farther. "I wish I could say this image was not to scale, but that's not true. All of them ride these scorpions, which have a deadly corrosive acid in their stingers. Don't get stung. If you do, revive teams might not be able to save you. " the two holograms disappeared and a video appeared but didn't start playing. "The team on site of the breach was driven back and is losing ground, you are reinforcements. This video shows the warriors in action. " The video was from a camera mounted on the helmet of a soldier, and the video looked like a first person shooter game.
The video played, and I saw the soldier running towards gunfire. He ducked behind a wall as debris flew past, then leaned out. The scorpions were massive, and the riders were terrifying. Bullets seemed to be ricocheting off the scorpions scales, but the riders weren't as bullet-proof. I saw a soldier get impaled by a stinger, and the area around the sting began to disappear in smoke until there was a gaping hole in his stomach only after a few seconds. The soldier which had the camera began firing and stepped out, but an arrow hit the camera and the video stopped.
"Your packs are ready, grab one from the wall and head out the door on my right, it will take you to the war zone. Dismissed. " We all stood and made our way to the wall. I grabbed a set of supplies which had three grenades, an electric baton, pistol, protective armor, and a burn rifle as well as a standard pack. The burn rifle was a very concentrated heat gun with an effective range almost as much as the standard military rifle outside of the Program. Obviously we were supposed to burn the scorpions right in their shells, but I knew it would take several seconds of a steady heat to do much damage. I followed the rest of the units out the door, transporting to the breach.
An injured soldier looked over at us and smiled wearily, clearly relieved. "Reinforcements!" he called out. The news was met with cheering, and we rushed forward to join the fray. I could see what I assumed was the breach across the battlefield, a window to another dimension from which the scorpion riders came through. I ducked under an arrow and took cover behind a crashed vehicle. Someone had brought a rocket launcher and I saw a missile streak overhead. It scored a direct hit on a rider and blew up several nearby as well. I leveled my heat gun and focused on the scorpions, focusing the heat on one spot as long as I could. Despite the reinforcements, the battle was slow. We were pushing back the enemy, but too many were coming through. After about an hour of barely gaining any ground, The scorpions coming through the breach began to slow. We started gaining more ground, climbing over half-disintegrated soldiers and cooking scorpions. Medical and revival teams scrambled around behind us trying to save as many soldiers as they could. Finally, we drove back the scorpion riders right in front of the breach and kept pushing, trying to send them all through so we could close the breach.
Something caught my eye through the portal, and I knew it wasn't good. A scorpion several times taller than all the others, with a single person on top. I recognized the clothing as what most magicians or shamans would've worn, and knew something was wrong. I leveled the heat gun at him and pressed the trigger, but before the heat could build up, however, the world exploded. All of the Program units were thrown back around the portal and another pair of breaches opened on either side of the first portal and more scorpion riders began to pour through. I raised my heat gun, but saw that the power unit had been crushed by the fall. I tossed it aside and drew my pistol, firing on the riders and trying to give the others a chance to get up. Many were killed as they tried to scramble away, and then I saw an opening. Not to another dimension, but an opening in their line. I could get through to the other world and kill the shaman if I was lucky. If not I would probably get stabbed by a scorpion and never be revived.
I quickly took stock of the situation. I had a pistol, grenades, baton, damaged armor, and the standard pack. Not much to go off of. I tossed one grenade to the breach on the right and another on the left, then charged towards the center breach. I ducked under a swinging sword, jumped over a dead scorpion, shot a rider trying to shoot me, and jumped into the breach. There was a flash of light, a loud bang, and I was on the other side. I barely had any time to look around before I was thrown back into combat. Duck, shoot, jump, lean left, stab with baton, roll right, come up, shoot, shoot, and stab. Five of the riders had been guarding the breach, but now I was alone with the shaman and more troops were too far away to help. I leveled my pistol at him and...click.
I leapt to the side as the ground exploded where I had been, the scorpion had spat a glob of the venom at me. I rolled my last grenade under it and backpedaled to avoid another blast of venom. I saw a pair of guards running towards me on scorpions and knew it was time to get out of here. I turned towards the breach as the grenade exploded, killing the scorpion and spraying it's corrosive venom on the shaman, who began to disintegrate. The portal closed as soon as he died, and I was stuck. I remembered the two riders just in time, and turned to face them. One was trying to save the shaman, the other still approaching. I grabbed a bow and arrow from the ground and shot them both quickly. The scorpions came next, easily dispatched without their riders to guide them. More were coming up the hill, and I didn't have much time until I would be overrun. I left my empty pistol, but grabbed a sword and a few more arrows and ran.
I had no idea where to go, but I needed to get away first, then I could figure out a way to get back to my earth. I took a quick look around, then started running for some woods down the hill. The riders kept chasing after me, but couldn't bring their scorpions into the woods and had to continue on foot. I hid under the roots of an old tree and had the sword ready. It was a bit heavier than I would have liked but it was all I had. About fifteen people had entered the woods after me, and were searching all over. I saw a shadow pass and held my breath as one stepped over the root I was under. He paused there to look around, and I made my move. I jumped up and stabbed him in the chest before he could realize I was there and died quietly. I saw another one about fifty yards away and shot him with the bow before he could raise the alarm.
Two down, thirteen to go. I knocked another arrow and looked around for more of the enemies. I heard a shout and whirled around to see another pointing at me, telling the others where I was. I shot him and prepared to fight the rest. Two came from where I had just shot the last one, and the others started appearing all over. I was surrounded. I ducked behind the tree and fired to my right at one knocking an arrow. His shot went wide as he fell over dead and I started to focus on the ones on this side of the tree. I shot one as he tried to come closer when he thought I wasn't looking, and another two as they tried to charge. Only six more. With the immediate dangers taken care of, I stepped out from the tree and fired at the other approaching six. Two went down before they got too close for the bow, and I drew my sword to meet them. Four on one wasn't the best odds for a normal person with a less than ideal sword, but I wasn't a normal person. I took a deep breath and prepared to fight.
Parry, parry, duck, stab, twirl right, limbo, slash, parry, parry, parry, stab, slash. In less than five minutes I had killed all fifteen of them on an unknown battlefield. Not bad. I grabbed a few more arrows and continued into the woods.
I traveled until it got dark, then took inventory again. Damaged armor, baton, sword, bow, a dozen arrows, and the standard pack. I gathered some wood and started a fire, then opened the standard pack. It had a radio, food and water for ten days, iodine tablets, emergency radio, small radio, flashlight, energy pills, and that was it. I flipped on the radio and set it to SOS mode and put it back in the bag. Hopefully the Program would hear it somehow and I could get out of this dimension. I made a small bed and lay back to sleep, looking up at the canopy of the forest.
I watched the fireflies floating about as they drifted around. One landed next to me and I turned my head to look at it, and I realized it wasn't a firefly. It was a small humanoid, about three or four inches tall with wings, similar to a butterfly. I stood up quickly and scrambled for my gun before I remembered I didn't have it anymore.
Suddenly, all the lights went out and it was dark except for what I assumed was moonlight filtering through the trees. I picked up my bow and knocked an arrow, turning in circles to try and figure out what was going on. There was a thump a few yards away and a faint blue light appeared. I let loose the arrow without thinking, and there was a squeal of pain from some sort of animal. I heard it crashing through the woods as it left, and the lights began to return. I walked over to where I had shot the animal. There was one of the tiny humanoids on the ground, either dead or unconscious. I picked up a small piece of decaying wood with the animal's blood on it. It was green blood. I shook my head and left the piece of wood on the ground and turned to the small humanoid. It seemed to be female, and except for the translucent butterfly wings and minuscule size, entirely human. Since I had no idea if it was friendly or even still alive, I left it on the ground and went back to my bed.
I woke up a few hours later when I heard shouting, not in a language I knew. I quickly packed up and kicked dirt over the fire pit. I saw one of the soldiers pass by in the woods, clearly looking for me. I picked up my pack and ran deeper into the forest. I knew that eventually I would get caught or eat something I wasn't supposed to and die. I just hoped I could last long enough for the Program to get me out of here.
I ran for hours, slowing when I was tired but never stopping. My clothes were drenched with sweat and I had no idea where I was but anywhere was better than dead. Well, almost anywhere. I sat down against a tree and drank some water. I ate a ration cube as well and washed it down with the rest of the water pouch. I buried the empty wrappers against the tree, trying not to leave a trail for them to follow. The protective armor wasn't really helping me much, it kept rubbing against me and I was going to start bleeding soon if I didn't leave it. I thought for a few moments, then took it off and stuffed it in a bush since it was too big to bury. I rested for a few minutes and looked around. It was just forest as far as I could see, not much to use as a landmark to mark my path. I stood up and was about to continue when someone spoke.
"Wait up! You're going way too fast for me to keep up, " someone said. I whirled around and drew my sword, looking for the source of the voice.
"Who's there?" I challenged.
"Just me, you lost the other guys a while back, you probably have a few hours till they get here. " I still couldn't identify the source.
"Show yourself. "
"I'm right here. " I didn't see anyone. "Turn to your left. " I looked left and hovering a few feet away was the little humanoid I had seen last night.
"Why did you follow me? What are you?" I turned my whole body and kept the sword between me and the figure.
"I'm a sprite. Kinda like a fairy, just less magic. And I followed you because you saved me, it's our laws and such. I'm Jem by the way. "
"Just call me Carl. " Carl had been my name before I became E-128654, and I used it when people couldn't remember six numbers. "How come you speak English?"
"Oh that's about all the magic I do, you hear whatever language you're used to. To me it sounds like you're speaking Sylvan. "
"Okay, nice to know. Do you know about any breaches to other dimensions? I'm not from here and need to get back to where I came from. "
She shook her head. "The only other dimension I know of is The Void, and nothing can survive in there. " Sounded like space to me.
"Can you take me to it please? I think I need to go there. "
"Sure, but it's a few days' travel away. Are you sure you want to go there?"
"Yes, if it goes to dimension 186380, I can get a ride from our space fleet back home. "
"Um, yeah, this way. "
She took off, flying through trees slow enough that I could keep up easily. I ran as much as I could during the day and slept during the night. I was up at dawn and running, resting as little as possible. I knew that this was probably the only way back home, and I didn't need to get caught on the way so I needed to put as much distance between me and the scorpion riders as possible. On the third day of running, we ran into a problem.
The forest ahead abruptly stopped and opened into a field. I couldn't see the end, but I knew it was a long ways off. "Wait, Jem, is this void place across the field?"
"Yeah, just on the other side. Why?"
I didn't like the open, The only reason I was still alive was because the scorpions couldn't get into the forest. If I was spotted out there I would be dead in a minute. "How far is it?"
"I'd say about two hundred Hends. "
Well that wasn't very helpful. "Okay, and at our current pace how long until we get to the other side?"
"Probably three or four days at most. "
"And if I ran through the night?"
"You could make it nightfall tomorrow. "
"Alright, rest today, tonight we're running until we get to the other side. "
"Are you sure we can do that? I've never flown that far. "
"I can do it, but if you don't want to come you can leave. I can probably find The Void on my own from here. " I could tell she was tempted to leave.
"No, I want to come. I've never seen The Void and I'm most of the way there already. "
"You've never seen it? How do you know where it is?"
"We all do, every time a new leader is chosen they have to go see it to prove they're strong, and sometimes the stupid warriors go as well. The ones that come back make maps and I've memorized the directions. "
"Makes sense. " I ate a ration cube and drank some from another water pouch.
"So what are you going to do when you get back home? Do you have any family?" I almost choked on the water.
"Um, not really. My family doesn't remember me, and I barely remember them either. "
"Did you not get along well?"
"No I just...left. I joined WASP at 14, and just graduated from the academy a few days ago. This was my first mission and I definitely wasn't supposed to end up here. "
"What's WASP?" I took another drink from the water pouch.
"WASP is the World Abnormal Specialist Program, we deal with stuff like armies of scorpion riders invading earth. Lots of danger on missions but we get taken care of pretty well. "
"So what do you hope to find at The Void?"
"Dimension 186380, the Program has friends there who can take me home. "
"Why so many numbers?"
"After the first fifty it gets hard coming up with names for 500000 unexplainable entities, so we just stuck with numbers. "
"What number am I?"
I shook my head. "So far the entire world is AE-715793, until we get an outpost here you're unregistered. "
There was a buzzing noise coming from my pack, and I opened it quickly. I brought out the emergency radio, which was vibrating.
"What's that?" Jem asked.
"My way back home. " The vibrating stopped and a voice came through.
"...you hear me, hello, can you hear me, " it said.
"This is E-128654, I can hear you. "
"E-128654, this is the Captain of scout ship Eagle, we received your SOS signal. Where are you?"
"Not sure, I was at AE-715793 and ended up on the wrong side of the breach when it closed. "
"Should we just track your signal?"
"Yeah, but be careful, try not to crash through the breach. "
"Copy that, just meet us at the breach and we'll pick you up. See you then. "
I signed off the radio and put it back into the pack, smiling a mile wide.
"What was that about? I couldn't understand it. "
"That was the captain of a spaceship, he's gonna give me a ride home. If you want you can probably come with me. "
"See The Void and a new world? Count me in!" She said excitedly.
We set off at nightfall, going as fast as we could for the other side of the fields. I kept glancing all around to make sure there were no scorpion riders, and our luck held out. Mostly. It was late afternoon and I had just taken an energy pill, which theoretically gave me the equivalent of a whole night's sleep, when I saw a trio of scorpion riders in the distance. I dove into the tall grass before they saw me, and hoped they would leave.
"Jem, what are the riders doing?" I asked.
"Just patrolling, they're a sort of border guard I think. " A pause. "Never mind, it's a whole army, we'd better run. "
I looked up and saw that there was indeed a whole army cresting a hill, headed towards us. I took a quick drink of water and started running, trying to pace myself so that I could keep running. I heard a trumpet echo across the plains, and I guessed that wasn't good. I glanced back and saw about twenty of the riders detach from the main group and begin riding towards us. In the forest I would've stood a chance, but in the open I was as good as dead. "How long until we reach a forest of some sort?" I asked.
"Not soon enough, they'll catch us before we get there. "
The riders were closing fast, but we still had some time. I could see the forest ahead, but it was too far for us to reach it in time. I looked for some cover, anything I could use to my advantage. It was all fields and plains...except for those rocks over there. I turned slightly to my left and headed for the rock formation which made about five peaks sticking out of the ground close together in a circle. We reached them before the riders got too close and I scrambled on top of one of the peaks. I took a moment to rest, then started firing with my bow. Now that they were closer, I saw that there were 24 riders headed towards me to try and kill me. The riders began to fire back from their mounts, but weren't the best shots while on top of moving animals. I managed to shoot seven of the riders before I ran out of arrows, and then I drew my sword. I jumped off the peak and into the middle of them. I was well protected here until they got right on top of me, then they could shoot me when they got a clear shot. I grabbed my electric baton and turned it on as well, prepared to fight.
They quickly surrounded me, and as they tried to get a clear shot I struck. I leapt out of an opening and shocked one of the riders, then stabbed the sword down through the scorpion's head and finished off the rider. I ducked under an arrow from another rider and ran back into the rocks. Now it was one on sixteen, but those odds were still a little difficult for me. I wished I still had a grenade, but I was stuck now. Not much I could do. I spent the next thirty minutes dodging arrows and lashing out when they got to close, but for the most part I was still at a standstill. I managed to kill three but I was beginning to tire. I'd been running for days and a sword fight was quickly eating away at my last reserves of energy.
There was a TWANG and I felt a pain erupt in my right shoulder as I stumbled back. I dropped my sword and was left with just my left arm to use. The arrow wasn't barbed, so I yanked it out and tried to continue fighting. Another arrow hit the rock behind me, and I knew I couldn't last much longer. I jabbed out of one opening at a rider who had gotten too close and drove him back, but what I needed was to kill them. I saw something flash past an opening, and the scorpion riders started yelling. I wasn't sure what they were saying but I hoped it meant they were leaving. To my left I saw a rider begin to run away, but a beam of light hit him in the back and he fell off his mount. I smiled, recognizing the Program's energy rifles. While I waited for the last dozen to leave, I began patching my arm with my small medical kit. Once I had bandaged it I put everything in my pack and stood up.
"E-128654, are you in there?" someone asked.
"Yes, I'm here!" I yelled back. "Good timing, not sure how much longer I would've lasted against them. " Jem had been hiding on top of one of the peaks during the fight and started floating down to me.
"Good thing we were sent over, come on, let's get you home. " Home. I stepped out of the rocks and boarded a small hover platform with a pilot and a small energy turret. "What's that?" the gunner asked, swinging the turret towards Jem.
"It's fine, she helped me get here. Without her I would probably be dead by now. "
"Alright then, let's get going before they get here. " I looked back and saw the army was much closer, almost at the rocks. The ones they sent after me must've been just to keep me in place until the rest arrived to finish me off if I was still alive. I also noticed a half dozen large catapults, each pulled by six scorpions. I also noticed the large rocks in the cups and the people trying to fire it.
"Go faster, they're readying the catapults!" I yelled. We didn't have any guns that could reach the catapults, so our only option right now was to run. The platform sped up, racing away as the catapults launched. The fist two projectiles smashed the rock formation I had been hiding in, reducing it to rubble. One landed to our left and threw dust all over the platform. The fourth catapult jammed and didn't fire, but the last two did. One hit right behind us and tilted the platform forward in the shockwave, and the last hit to our right and spun the platform out of control. The pilot managed to regain control, but some of the army was close enough to start shooting with their bows. I picked up a rifle and flipped up a cargo compartment to crouch behind and returned fire with the gunman. The pilot seat was, thankfully, enclosed in a small dome so the pilot was protected, but we certainly weren't. Jem was in the cargo compartment, trying to hold on and keep from falling over.
"How much longer till we reach the woods?" the gunner yelled to the pilot.
"Not much longer!" he yelled back. I glanced back and saw we had traveled lots of ground and were slowly outpacing the fastest of the army, getting out of their bow range and towards the woods. We managed to get under the trees quickly, and the pilot followed a path winding through the trees to a cave. He didn't stop at all and just kept driving through the opening into the darkness, diving down through the cave. I looked down the cave and saw the hangar of a small ship sitting in space.
"Hold on!" the pilot yelled. I exhaled and crossed through the breach and into space, our momentum carrying us across the short distance and through the atmosphere shield. We skidded to a stop in the hangar and the ship started to move as soon as we were in.
Jem looked a bit scared, but otherwise was fine. "What was that?" she asked.
"That was space, but I guess you call it The Void. It's a place without gravity or air. Nothing we know of can live there very long without special equipment. "
"Let's not go back there any time soon. " I agreed. Even being in space for just a few seconds was extremely dangerous, mainly due to pressure differences.
"Come on, let's get to the medical bay. " The medical staff helped out Jem while I cleaned up, taking a shower and putting on a new set of clothes. Once I did that the medical crew healed my shoulder and the bruising from space, and gave a nice hot meal. The captain said it would be about an hour until we arrived at reserve in my dimension, and I took the opportunity to read over the report on AE-715793. Turns out once I killed the shaman all the breaches closed, and without a steady stream of reinforcements they lost pretty quickly. Clean up was still in progress, and the cover story had fooled the world. I was listed as MIA when the breaches closed, and now I was back in the Program. Next mission would probably be in a few days, but until then I needed to keep all my skills ready.
So this is pretty open for suggestions and stuff, so if you want to see something later on just comment and I'll see what I can do.