Unreal

                Thanks to all who reviewed my story. I agree that there are some wholes (the words "Swiss Cheese" comes to mind) and the broken leg has a significance. I apologize for the lateness of the update. This doesn't wholly explain it, but at the same time I'm writing this, I'm making my own RPG and working on a summer assignment for school. I will try to update more frequently. As always, the characters in this story are mine (Peter, Andrew, Erica) but mostly everything else is property of Epic (Skaarj, Nali, etc). This story is under constant work and editing. Well, that's about it, so enjoy the newest three pages of "Unreal".

Unreal

By Kai Duncan

            It was a dream. I suppose the whole experience started with that dream. It was the most peace I had had since my conviction back on earth. I was sentenced for breaking into the government's key systems and crashing them. I thought there was no chance I could get caught, but I was wrong. When I first received my sentence, all I wanted to do was get my hands around the judge's neck, and sometimes I still want to.

            The only thing that I did in the dream was lay on this incredibly beautiful beach. The only noise was that of the ocean washing onto the beach to meet my feet. I felt an inner calmness that I had never truly experienced, but I knew what it was when I felt it. It was this serenity that led me to believe it was a dream. But dream or not, I liked it there.

            I was woken up quite roughly. At first, I couldn't place what woke me up. The shooting pain in my leg quickly told me that, though. I gazed down at my leg. A pipe had fallen on it. There was a deep gash right down the right side of my leg. I tried to move it, but the pain was too intense. I figured it was broken. I grabbed two pipes that were lying on the ground, than ripped off strips of my sheets. I managed to fashion a crude splint with it. It wasn't much, but it would have to do.

            As I dragged myself out of sleep, I took a quick look at my cell. It was literally a hellhole. It was barely habitable. It seems at times that every inch of the cells are covered with bugs. Many prisoners die on the ship, rather than meet that fate on the planet.

            Back in 2159, the new world order had a problem. Simply put, the criminal system was beyond full. The prison system was jammed beyond capacity and the money they were paying the police departments was obscene. But, to the "infinite wisdom" of the new world order, the answer was simple. Send all convicts to another planet and let them kill each other. They modified several deep space vessels and sent them to find a planet to use, then to deposit their payload of several thousand convicts each.

            It's been 50 years since that decision, and the world couldn't be happier. The money that was saved went to create the first human clone, faster spaceships, and the cures for aids and cancer. The only ones that are upset by the whole thing are the human rights activists and, well, the convicts. But, off course, no one does anything. No one commits a crime unless they think they can get away with it. No one ever does.

            My life has been a living hell. Every day I fear for my life. I can't trust anyone. Neither the guards nor my fellow convicts. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. One of those exceptions is my cellmate Erica.

            I found myself staring at her. She was sleeping. I couldn't help but to remember how we met. The guards have cell assignments, but they don't give a rat's ass about us. Until I met Erica, I had no "cell buddy" and was glad about it. Erica had been through five. Every time she found one that she may like, Erica's cellmate would assault her. The women did it out of jealousy, while the guys did it to make the women jealous. Don't ask me why, it's just how it works here. When she came to me, she was extremely defensive. She asked me very deep, probing questions to try to figure out my personality. I answered each question truthfully, and apparently she liked my answers. She sought refuge in me, and I gave it to her. She didn't have any possessions, so she came to my cell immediately.

            I looked across the room. She was still sleeping. She seems so peaceful when she slept. Erica sometimes reminded me of a child. I don't know why, but she did. As I looked at her, I was flooded with the same calmness I had experienced in my dream.

            Then all hell broke loose. The whole ship started to shake as if it was in gunfight. At one point, the entire ship was almost upside-down. Needless to say, Erica woke quickly. The captain came on the ship wide speaker system. "Attention. We have run into a little…turbulence. Please remain cal………. What the hell!?" this was immediately followed by laser fire, agonizing screams, and something that didn't sound like anything on Earth.

            Erica stole the words from me. "What the fuck was that!?" I didn't have an answer. While I was contemplating what had happened, the power went out. This scared me even more than the captain's message. It wasn't that the ship had backup power. It was the fact that I knew these ships and that I knew backup power wasn't wired to the confine shields that kept prisoners in. Without them, many people would probably be killed, including Erica and me. I told Erica this when she asked me what was wrong.

            I told her to hide under one of the beds. She asked me what I was gonna do. I told I had a plan. Many of the inmates knew that could tell them how to get where they wanted to go. I would give this information in exchange for our lives. Fortunately, I didn't have to do this. Tom, one of the friends I had made on this ship, grabbed a couple of extra laser guns from guards that were overpowered by convicts. He came by our cell and gave us two of the extras. He looked like a small armory. He grabbed every gun he could find and took off.

            I asked him if he wanted to stay with us. He said he'd like to, but he thought it was better to keep on the move. I bid him farewell and he ran out, shooting everything that moved. I supposed this was a year of built-up aggression releasing itself. Tom wasn't the biggest, fastest, or the smartest on the ship. One day early in the voyage, I saw he was being hassled by three guys twice his size. They were saying that the food auto-dispenser hadn't given them enough and they wanted his. Tom wasn't very special, but he had guts. He had refused to give them his food. But I knew that he was gonna get killed if the thugs didn't get their way. I went to Tom's rescue.

            I would have alerted the guard, but I knew they wouldn't help. So I went up to what looked liked the leader. He was bigger than all the others, and that usually meant that he was the leader. From the first word out of his mouth, I also knew that he wasn't too smart. "What do you want, pipsqueak? I'm doin some business here." he said. I calmly stated that I had heard their dilemma and if they would give me their i.d. numbers for the machine, I would be glad to help. They thought I was joking at first. I insisted that one of them give me their code. That's when they got angry. "What the hell are you gonna do, huh? You gonna bore it to death?" one of the other three said. I told them to follow me to the food dispenser to find out.

            I guess it was out of sheer curiosity that the three thugs and Tom came with me. I showed them that I could reprogram the machine to dispense twice as much for individual i.d. numbers. Once they saw this, they readily gave me their numbers. I almost laughed out loud. Yes, they would get more food, but these food systems were wired into the main computer. Once the computer read that they were getting more food, the guys would be taken to the solitary confinement section of the ship, where they would probably starve to death.

            As they walked off, happily slurping up their food, Tom came up to me. He asked me if I could do the same to his i.d. number that I had done with the others. I asked him to please keep it down, and I told him what was going to happen to them once the central computer found out. He started to laugh. Once I noticed he was drawing attention, I told him to stop. He stopped laughing and said "Boy, my friend, you have done this place a justice. But, seriously, can you make so we can get extra food?" I liked how he never said I. It told me that what he really cared about were people he called friend. I told him that more food was impossible unless I can get to a main computer terminal. Tom said that he could find one, and ever since that day, we've been friends. I've been teaching him programming, and he taught me how to get around on this god-forsaken ship.

            Yes, Tom was, and always will be, one of my best friends, but I had other things to worry about. I heard the shouts down the hall where all the men had gone. I wondered what was attacking them. I only heard one set of gunfire, but I also heard a completely different sound. It was like what I heard on the intercom. Once I was sure everyone was gone, I took Erica down the opposite hallway that everyone else had gone. When she asked why, I said that the escape pods were in the direction we were going. If we were still in space, those pods were the only thing to save us.

We stopped several times along the way. Before we left the prisoner holding area, I saw on the ground a universal translator. At first, I didn't think we'd need it because the only language spoken on the ship is "governmental", which was basically English, but I reconsidered when I thought that if we crashed on an inhabited planet it would be nice to know what they were saying. I quickly reached down and grabbed it.

It was a lucky thing I did, too. Right when I bent down, I heard Erica yell at me to Duck, and I felt an energy bolt go searing pass my ear. I grabbed the translator and rolled off to the side. Then I remembered that I had a broken leg. I screamed out in pain once I landed. Erica had thought I was hit and almost dashed to my side of the doorway. I yelled to her that I was okay. I took some time to examine my leg. The pipe I had used for my bandage had moved and was now lodged in the wound I pried it out and concentrated on the problem at hand. A madman was still shooting us at.

Erica was covering me from the other side of the archway. I took a look at who was shooting at me. It was Bruiser, the big guy I got sent to solitary back when I met Tom. He was laughing manically. I franticly took aim and fired. I got one shot, but that was all it took.

He lay on the floor, dead. I had accidentally got him straight in the head. I vaguely heard Erica say nice shot, but I was too distracted by my own thoughts. I had just killed a man. But all I wanted to do was to graze his shooting arm. I had never meant to kill him. An extremely anxious Erica, who couldn't wait to get off this ship, interrupted this train of thought, however. I let her pull me away from the now-dead body. Then I realized something. "Wait" I said, "I want to go get Tom. He deserves to get out of here as much as we do." She agreed, and we headed in the other direction. I did my best to keep up with Erica, who was flat-out running. We had run about a quarter-mile before I saw the carnage that had taken place. Bodies of prisoners were strewn about everywhere. Many of them had vicious claw marks buried deep into their skin.

It took me a while to find Tom. This was due to the fact that I was searching all the places a living human being might hide in. it was Erica who eventually found him. Both of us huddled around Tom's lifeless body. A look of sheer terror was cemented on his face. I wanted to mourn the loss of my dearest friend, but there was no time. Erica suggested we move because she didn't want to be anywhere near what had done this. I was about to go, but something caught my eye. I glance at the computer terminal. Since the government had decided to do away with all windows, there were several cameras mounted on the outside of the hull. One of the cameras was feeding straight to this monitor.

I stared at the carnage around the ship. We had crashed onto a planet. Unfortunately, it was apparently inhabited by a very vicious, bloodthirsty civilization. I watched as one of these things ran from the ship. It was humanoid in shape, but it was a good foot taller than the average man and rippled with muscles. He was carrying some sort of weapon. He saw the camera on the outside of the ship. He fired what now appeared to be a rocket launcher at the camera. I felt the rocket make impact on the ship's hull, and watched the screen flicker to black.

"Whoa. That's a really ugly dude" I heard Erica say behind me. I nearly jumped. I hadn't realized that she was right behind me. "Alright, since those things are out there, we should swing by the armory and get more weapons." I said. She agreed and we headed for the armory. Along the way, we saw fleeting glimpses of things that looked like really big spiders.

We were near the armory when we came under laser fire again. We used the same strategy we used to deal with Bruiser, but I didn't take a direct dive to my side. My leg was in enough pain as it was. Between laser fires, we asked who was shooting at us. "I'm commander Allen. I make sure everything runs smoothly with the prisoners." I almost took a shot at him right then and there. I couldn't help myself. This was the bastard who kept living conditions minimal at best, shot prisoners whenever he felt like it, and made sure we were all malnourished. The laser fire continued until Erica and I heard the telltale click click that said the commander was out of ammo.

We rushed up to the box he was hiding behind and lowered our guns to his neck. The Commander said "Go on. Kill me if you want but if you do you both won't get of this accursed planet. For that matter, you won't get off the ship!" Erica replied "What's gonna stop us, huh? You? I don't think so. Hell, half of your guards are dead in the corridor before this one! And another thing…" I stopped her before she got too far. "What do you mean we won't be able to get of the planet? What about the radio?" The commander snorted. "The radio? It's gone. Dismantled by the Skaarj." "The Skaarj?"

"Yes, the Skaarj." Said Commander Allen. "We landed on this planet two weeks ago to run some routine maintenance. The Skaarj killed all of our maintenance men and proceeded to take the ship apart. We've been fighting them on the outside for a week and a half, but we know little about them. Their name comes from the Nali, who were the first inhabitants of this planet. That is, until the Skaarj enslaved them. The word Skaarj means 'destroyer of worlds'. The Skaarj hop from planet to planet for the sheer purpose of domination over the whole of the universe. I know, don't they sound like a happy bunch. A few hours ago, they broke through the hull and started this…massacre."

"Did they get to the armory?" Erica asked. "Weapons? Heh. The Skaarj took them…" then the commander's face brightened. "They may not have taken everything! We have to check." "Then we need to get Peter to the infirmary." Erica said as she motioned to me. "No, I'm alright. We need to defend ourselves first" I said. The commander added, " Besides, the infirmary was overrun four days ago. We haven't been able to get it back." Erica reluctantly responded" All right, fine. I just hope you're okay, Peter." She looked straight into my eyes. For a second, I thought I saw something more in her eyes. But the commander quickly interrupted our would-be moment. "Come on, people! We need to get to the armory." He said.

"I still don't trust you, commander." I said as he and Erica lifted me up. "Good. I don't trust you either, prisoner. But we have no choice other than to cooperate." The commander retorted. With Erica and the commander holding me up we began the walk to the armory. "And I'm not calling you commander anymore. As far as I see it, I'm a free man now and I don't have to answer you." I told the commander. He chuckled. "Tell ya what. I'll let you call me by my real name. It's Andrew. As for that free man stuff, it'll just give me the pleasure of capturing a runaway convict." He smiled. I wanted to punch him right in the face, but I knew we needed him.

After what seemed like an eon, we made it to the armory. I was shocked at the sight of it. The prison ships usually kept their facilities in top-notch conditions. The armory, however, was completely totaled. Most noticeable was the gaping hole in the wall opposite the doorway. Shelves and debris were scattered everywhere. The commander, Andrew, must have seen the shock on my face. "Yep, the Skaarj really fucked it up good. But there may still be a weapon or two left." He said.

Andrew and Erica placed me on one of the scattered boxes in the room. I told them I wanted to help but they said I should conserve my strength. I knew they were right, but I felt I should have contributed a little. With my one good leg, I kicked over a piece of metal. "Oh, shit." I said. There was a small metal cylinder sitting on the ground where the metal had been. The cylinder was emitting a slow, continuous beep. Andrew took one look at it and started to run. "Get the fuck out of there!" He yelled over his shoulder. Erica ran out of the room almost as fast as Andrew. I took a running jump out of the room as it was engulfed in flames.

Andrew, Erica, and I huddled together behind a big crate so we could avoid the flames spewing out of the room. Erica said, "What the hell just happened?!" "Incinerator bomb. Takes out anything within 200 kilometers. The Skaarj must have figured out how to use them." Andrew said. "Gee, you think!" I yelled. Andrew ignored me, focusing his attention on the wreckage that used to be the armory. Erica and I also turned our heads to it. The fire had died down and we could see an opening on the other side. Almost reading Andrew's mind, I said" You can't be serious. We're going out there?" "Oh, I'm very serious. Think about it. We have a better chance of hiding out there on a large land mass than in a relatively small ship. We'll sleep in here now and leave during the night." He responded.

Erica roused me from my sleep. She said" C'mon. We need to get moving. Andrew is already outside." She helped me up and out the hole in the armory wall. Just as Erica had said, Andrew was standing outside the ship. It looked like he was looking for something. "Watcha lookin' for, Andrew?" I asked him. "I'm looking for dinner, if you must know. I, and presumably you both, haven't eaten for a while. Unfortunately, all I found were these berries." Andrew responded. He led us to a cabin nearby. "This is the safest place to hide for now." He told us. We went into the cabin and Andrew laid the fruit out on the table.

"Do you think these are safe to eat?" Erica asked. "Do we really have a choice?" Andrew replied as he stuck one of the berries in to his mouth and slowly started to chew. Erica and I just stared at him. I really didn't know what I was expecting, but I was relieved when Andrew said "Why exactly are you guys staring at me?" We all laughed. Erica and I took a piece of fruit and started to eat. To my surprise, it tasted very well. I looked up to see Erica and Andrew looking at me. "Haven't we been through this, guys?" I joked. They just kept on staring at me. No, they were not staring at me; they were staring at my broken leg. I glanced down at it, too.

I could tell that the wound was emitting a dull glow. I unwrapped the bandages to find out that the wound was closing on it's own. "What the hell?" I said. All of a sudden, Andrew pulled out his gun. "Whoa, it's not that weird!" I exclaimed. I then noticed that he was pointing it at the doorway of the shack. I turned around to come face to face with an alien. This alien, however, looked nothing like the Skaarj I had seen yesterday on the monitor. This particular alien looked weaker, less muscle mass. And he struck me as looking scared. I suddenly remembered Andrew's itchy trigger finger from our gunfight. "Wait, Andrew, don't" I yelled at him. "Why not!? He's just another damn alien! We'll be better off without him!" He yelled at me. At this statement, the alien started to make noise and point at my makeshift pocket.

All three of us stared at him in confusion. Erica said, with some reluctance, "I think he's pointing at the translator, Peter." "What translator?" Andrew asked me. "I grabbed a translator off a dead guard back at the ship. I guess we could try using it with the alien. As long as you put down the gun, that is." I responded. As the commander reluctantly put down the gun, I brought out the translator.