Disclaimer: I don't own BLAME!; Tsutomu Nihei does. If you've never heard of him, start searching. Now.
Maybe on Earth.
Maybe in the future.
LOG1: The Net's Offspring
Decay. Not quite ruin, but definitely decay. Both sides of the yawning gulf were lined with innumerable fissures; close-up, the fissures would be huge scars, crumbled and weathered away by decades of neglect, but from the middle of the space, they appeared veinlike. Above and below, sharp cracks and sizzles could be heard as build-ups of static electricity grew big enough to discharge themselves, and flashed across the seemingly bottomless manmade canyon. The air smelled of ozone, layered over a dank, heavy odour of moisture and rust.
Two people were two-thirds of the way across what was probably a cable-housing bridge; one was fully-grown, the other a child. Both wore black, form-fitting overalls, along with small backpacks. The bridge itself had the appearance of a rotten smile, showing haphazard gaps from missing panels. Two manta-like creatures flew silently overhead, but the two travellers ignored them.
The man stopped. The child, who had been looking back over his shoulder, swivelled his head forwards, his pale fringe momentarily obscuring his vision. Then he saw what had caught his companion's attention.
A lone figure, barely distinguishable from the scenery, was approaching from the end of the bridge ahead of them.
"A human?" asked the boy.
For a moment, the man gave no reply. The lack of expression on his face gave no indication of his thought process. Then, "Get in there," he said, pointing at an uncovered maintenance hole. The child obeyed immediately, hunkering down out of view amongst the pipes and wires, while his black-haired friend moved to stand a few meters in front of the hole.
The figure came closer. It was now near enough to be more than a vague blob; it seemed to have a fluttery, clothlike quality about it. After another minute, it was clearly a person wearing a ragged cloak. Or cloaks.
From ten metres away, it called, "Hey!" in a raspy voice. Advancing still nearer, "Where'd you come from? I haven't seen anyone for a long time."
The figure smiled in a way that might've been friendly, had he been showing fewer teeth. Like the other two, he was extremely pale, verging on albino. Without the characteristic lack of pigmentation in the eyes, that is. A metal band with an attached noseguard kept an additional piece of cloth firmly over his head; the only visible part of his body was his face.
The other man made no response at all, his expression continuously closed and unsmiling.
At this, the cloaked person walked past him, saying, "I thought I had seen another one from a distance. Guess it was just my imagination," as he headed directly towards the maintenance hatch were the boy was hiding.
Pausing in front of it to look down, he heard the other man speak. "Hey."
"Yeah?" He looked back to see the previously expressionless man now wearing a slight smile, and aiming a gun at him.
In a movement that tore his cloak to pieces, he pulled his arms out from beneath his cloak. His oversized, over-muscled arms with grotesquely clawed hands.
BLAM! His opponent fired. As the recoil of the small, pistol-scale weapon threw its holder off his feet, a hole was blown through the middle of his target, ripping it in half. The torso spun and twisted through the air to land on the bridge, while a severed arm was thrown past the edge and disappeared. In the far distance, at the other end of the bridge, a whoam and a huge flash of light marked the final impact of the shot.
The boy was silent while being helped out of the hole. Once the two of them were some distance away, he voiced his thoughts: "Killy, I bet he wanted my cell."
Later. How much later…who knows? But it was definitely later, when two new figures arrived at the dissected body. Time had a way of passing without much evidence.
Both of the new arrivals appeared to wear some kind of light black armour, each section moulded specifically to their bodies. The result was mechanical in appearance; in addition to this, the backs of their heads were uncovered by any semblance of skin, allowing the distinctly inorganic equipment inside to be clearly visible.
One of the two had, protruding from this area, a large number of strands of what might have been hair, had they not been so rigid. This one knelt down in front of the bloody torso and reached for the back of his neck. He removed a small plug and, extending the cord from some internal spool, attached it to a corresponding socket in the head at his knees.
"Thanks, you were fast," came the raspy voice. It now had an extra metallic quality.
"So, you found 'it'?" This one's voice was more even, verging on monotonous.
"Yeah. I'm sure he had a pure structure. The little one."
The kneeler's ovoid pupils narrowed as a video recording rewound across his vision: first the man and boy, then a close-up of the boy. "Who's the other one?" he asked.
"I couldn't scan him," was the reply. "Hey, save my memory."
The plug was removed. "Eh? What are you doing?"
The taller of the two others was also the less human in appearance. He had no lower face; his elongated spine was completely bare, and extended his neck disproportionately far above his shoulders. At this point, he stooped, picked up the torso, and casually threw it over the side of the bridge. Nothing could be read in his pupil-less, circular eyes.
Rectangular columns tapered upwards for the first two sections, disappearing into the darkness above at regular intervals; this area could have been mistaken for an oversized temple, long abandoned, empty. With two exceptions: Killy and the boy, who were walking as they had been for hours on end.
It must have been only the vaguest hint of a sound that made the black-haired man stop and look back, for his companion had heard nothing. But there was an unidentifiable shape back there, hiding in the shadows. Killy trained his gun on it, waiting for a movement.
Then something whistled past his right ear and thunked through the boy's left leg into the floor. As he spun back around, Killy was just in time to see the child's wide, frightened eyes, as he was yanked up, reeled in upside-down by a steel wire. The next moment, just as Killy re-aimed his gun, the tall, faceless humanoid, who stood on a gantry overhead, was holding the boy in front of him, as a shield.
Something hissed; behind Killy, the other one had fired wires from a wrist-mounted device into his backpack, which was now smoking. Killy spun round again, and fired. An explosion lit up the columns, blasting a sizeable chunk out of the nearest one and releasing a deluge of unidentifiable liquid.
The cyborg above extended his free arm, the hand of which was replaced with a rotary-barrel gun, and fired off a burst. A row of holes splashed their way across the floor towards his target below, who was forced to run up and flip off a nearby column to avoid being hit. Killy landed awkwardly – the impact knocked his gun from his grasp, sending it skittering across the floor. A long-fingernailed hand picked it up; as Killy stood, he found himself at the wrong end of his own weapon.
The long-haired creature raised the gun. Killy turned and ran.
With a thunderous report and a blinding flash, the entrance of the passage into which he'd run exploded, shattering the connecting corridor between the massive structure and its neighbour. As the being picked himself up from where the weapon's recoil had thrown him, his target fell into the abyss, followed by a scattering of glowing shards.
Knee-deep in murky, foul-smelling water, Killy trudged along, climbing over broken pipes and pushing aside floating sewage. The narrow, flooded passageway was dotted at odd intervals by piles of junk – broken pieces of machinery, upon which grew miscellaneous adapted forms of plant life, all in shades of black and metallic grey. A few lonely streaks of light filtered down from somewhere above.
Squeezing himself through a gap between two corroded barrels, Killy raised his smudged face and stopped; ahead of him, resting against the left wall, lay what appeared to be, at first glance, a gigantic beetle of some kind, about five metres long and equipped with numerous legs. After a moment's closer inspection, he saw that the object was mechanical in construction, not organic.
He pressed a button on the left side. A motor whirred, and the front end opened up like a cockpit canopy. The stench of rotten flesh filled the air – inside lay the decomposing corpse of a suited human, obviously the former pilot. Killy reached over behind the head and removed a cable; unzipping his bag, he removed another and connected the two.
Short hums and clicks filled the air as the vehicle roused itself and stood.
In a gap between two megalithic structures lay a dizzyingly high staircase. The stone steps went both up and down further than normal eyes could see, lined by pairs of colossal statues – robed figures with smooth, domed heads, both hands holding a wheel to their chests, all alike. It was up this staircase that the two partly human, partly mechanical creatures travelled, the taller one carrying his burden in a bulbous package. Against the wall of the building to their left, a campfire flickered on a platform, throwing the hunched shapes of squatting people and occasional glimpses of a rickety system of staircases and scaffold construction into sight. The two on the staircase paid them no heed.
Suddenly, a series of rapid shots rang out from the shoulder of a statue they'd recently passed. The long-haired one reacted just in time, leaping behind the base of the next statue as a line of steps splintered towards him. He ducked further back as the impacts began to shred the statue.
The tank-beetle ceased firing, lowering its front appendages. With a series of clangs, hatches in its side opened up, and out shot four rockets, which swiftly banked and homed in on their target, arcing down and around the pillar. The cyborg dived for the edge.
His friend, hiding behind the opposite statue, decided to step in; he aimed for the missiles and fired his arm gun. One of them detonated, taking the other three with it and blowing the base of the statue to smithereens. The rest of the stone figure fell diagonally, fragmenting across the staircase below with an ear-splitting crash.
The taller cyborg surveyed the wreckage, scanning it for his friend. Then he whirled around. A hail of rounds from the front guns of the tank, which had come down right behind him, tore him to bits.
A few metres below the side of the stairway, the other one heard the shots. Carefully, he aimed Killy's weapon, and fired. The shot went up through stone and punched a hole in the tank, before carrying on and taking the head off a nearby statue. The severed head fell flat on the staircase with a single thud. Hissing smoke erupted from the tank, mixing with stone dust and shrouding the area.
The remaining cyborg climbed back up to the staircase, looking around and listening intently. Nothing. No sign of the stranger. He must've been killed when…
From behind him, Killy swung a machete, cleaving down into the creature's head and through its right eye. Instinctively, his enemy spun, swatting him off to the side with incredible force. He landed hard, rolled and looked up.
The cyborg was swaying jerkily, first forwards, then to the left. He raised his hand, then looked at it closely, surprised that it was holding nothing. His remaining eye focused on Killy, as electricity sparked from the machete and across the incision; Killy, who had somehow grabbed his weapon back while being struck, was now aiming it steadily.
Killy fired. The cyborg's head exploded. A hole appeared in the base of the statue behind him, and in the structure behind that, and with a series of crashes and rending sounds, it all fell down in ruins.
Once he'd come about a hundred steps higher, Killy stopped and tore off some of the wrappings of the cocoon-like bag he'd taken from the other two. The white-haired head of the boy stared out, unblinking and unmoving, his very flesh attached to his bindings. Killy's eyes narrowed. He picked the boy up and continued upwards.
LOG2: Memories of Earth
A creaking, cracking sound emanated from the top of the slab, where hundreds of oversized maggots scratched and flailed in a helpless attempt to cling on to the surface. Blood and other fluids flowed as their efforts became more and more frantic – to no avail. With a groan, the block heaved outwards, sending a deluge of the loathsome creatures down into the artificial gorge. Killy looked up from where he sat, on an extension into the space, at the approaching slab and hangers-on, but made no move to avoid it. Apparently, none was needed; the block passed just clear of the extension, and although a few maggots hit and burst, none were near enough to do more than spray him with a few drops of blood.
Far down below, an elevator hummed upward, climbing the wall of the canyon-space like an insect on rails. A few maggots fell past before one impacted on the machine's glass wall, catching the attention of one of the two occupants: a large Alsatian. The dog started and stared at the splattered liquids on the window, before turning his attention to his master, a pale-haired young man who now required his companion's assistance.
With his nose, the dog pushed the man's breastplate up to secure it to his torso. The man stood and flexed the arms that came attached with the breastplate – having no arms of his own made the device rather difficult to put on without help.
As the last of the maggots disappeared below, the lift clanged to a halt in a shower of sparks, right next to Killy's narrow platform. Blots shot out from the sides to hold it in place. The door opened and the dog shot out, followed by the other occupant at a more sedate pace – this was partially due to the large, rectangular container he carried in one hand. The surface of the container was a jumble of open wires and circuitry, similar to the equipment the new arrival carried slung around his hips.
The dog stalked up to Killy, growling into his ear. Response: move head away slightly.
Neither man spoke as the container was set down and opened to reveal a coffin-like interior. The newcomer turned his attention to the bundle that lay next to Killy, removing the covering blanket. He paused momentarily at the sight of the boy, who still had pieces of the cocoon clinging to his skin and hair.
The boy was placed in the container; the pale-haired man removed a device from his belt array and ran it across one of the boy's arms. When it emitted a couple of beeps, he stopped and closed the container's lid. Walking back to the elevator, he opened a panel next to the door. Inside, in the centre of a mess of wires, sat a telephone handset. He removed it and put it to his ear, jabbing at the button upon which it had sat. Then, unsatisfied with the result, he forcefully kicked the lower cluster of machinery. With a few zaps and a flicker of electricity, the connection was made.
"Ok, I got it from Killy. I'll be back soon."
"Uh-huh. Some small irregularities in chromosomes ten and eleven. Prepare for the recording."
Replacing the handset, he walked back and sat down next to his dog, which was sitting next to Killy, having finally decided that the black-clad man wasn't a threat. They rested there for a moment, backs to the abyss, before the elevator man broke the silence again.
"The system has found an inhabited area about three thousand levels above…"
Killy looked at him sharply. "…but we don't know if they are human. Check it out anyway," he finished.
Another silence descended. Killy reached into his overalls and removed something.
It was an old hardcover book, the covers cracked and flaking, pages moth-eaten and mildewed. Killy paged through it before finding something. "'When the Earth, cold and calm, appears, a shadow climbed the hill…'" he read out loud. Turning towards the other man, he said, "What's the 'Earth'?"
A passing breeze stirred Killy's fringe, simultaneously pulling out one of the tattered pages and flinging it away.
"What's that?" was asked in return. Killy passed the book to the dog, who passed it to his master with his mouth. The man turned a couple of pages, studying it carefully. "It seems to be a printed backup…it's definitely very old. Can I take it with me?"
Killy made no reply. The dog suddenly looked straight up, and his master followed suit.
Far above them, in the distance, an evenly broken line of light, like a row of fluorescent tubes, was all that marked the tops of two superstructures they were between. "It's getting dark," remarked the pale-haired man. He stood, picked up the container, and walked back to the elevator. Pausing at the door, he turned to Killy and said, "I can take you to the next level."
Once again, no reply. Not even a shrug or movement of the head to indicate he'd been heard.
He stepped inside. The dog followed. The elevator began its noisy descent.
The raven-haired man continued to sit, staring into darkened space.
A/N: The first BLAME! fanfic on this site? I think so. Cool.
BLAME! is such an image-driven manga, it made me wonder what it would be like translated solely into words; hence this, my rendition of the first two chapters. I highly recommend reading the manga itself, and anything else you can find by Tsutomu Nihei, especially if you like the gothic-meets-cyberpunk look.