Not expecting many reviews for this, but I thought that it deserves to be put up, considering that the Unreal fandom is now dominated by fanboys who have no clue when or where the series began. The first game is really the only one with a soul.
My Prisoner 849 will be a girl. 849 is canonically female. I'm sorry if this offends anyone.
This is a fanfiction, and I take artistic licence with it. Yes, I know 849 is not bald, does not start out with the Enforcer, and that actually the Enforcer is called the Automag in Unreal but I like the word 'Enforcer' better.
Read and review, if you'd like. Have a wonderful day. --MNM
Chapter One: Water
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
It was a waterfall.
The sky was mottled steel, with flecks of gold surrounding the hazy yellow of what must have been a sun—but it was dwarfed in comparison to the looming butter-colored crescent of a moon, so that the bright star faded into the background.
The valley was secluded, walled off from the rest of the landscape by a vertical rock face several hundred feet high, and it was from thence that the waterfall flowed; an underground river, a vein of water, had eaten its way through the brown stone and now fell in a silvery spray down towards the river below. A secondary stream of water leaked through the rock and was barely visible if not for the glimmer of the sunlight on the droplets. The water must have been very high, at one point, because the river had eroded the rock until it neatly separated the huge rock from the lower landscape below by a deep canyon. The river twisted in a soft C-curve, catching the waterfall and carrying it around the bend until the water seemed to flow directly into the earthen walls of the valley.
She sat, cradling a bloodied upper arm with her opposite hand, at the edge of the canyon wall, her back to the waterfalls and the five-hundred foot drop that ended in an abrupt jut of land directly below her. Her body shook involuntarily; her face and lips were white, but flecked with blood. A gleam of metal glinted next to her bloodied hand—an Enforcer, with red fingerprints on the trigger.
She was staring at a rabbit—or what looked to be a rabbit, but certainly couldn't be. It had a rabbit's head and ears—the latter of which was quirked towards her, at the moment, as its jaws worked around a bit of grass—but its forepaws were absent. Instead, its body was almost completely dwarfed by the massive muscles of its back legs—the only appendages it had. No tail. Just a head and legs on a stumpy oval shaped body.
Her breath shuddered in and out of her lungs as she gazed at the animal from underneath blood-swollen lids. It paused, reared up on its legs, and whinnied at her. Two notes, one higher than the other; its call echoed on the canyon walls.
It was the only living thing out there with her. The only living thing besides her and the hulking massive beast of a ship that lay smoldering in its own crater somewhere in the midst of the cloud of smoke off to her right. She could hardly call it living, but it had been living, once, humming, with life inside of it. Not its own, of course. Life belonging to others.
It had come down hard, like a fallen bird, and had clipped the rock wall on the opposite side of the canyon. With its belly ripped open, the ship pitched forwards, cleared the gaping canyon river, and buried itself in the soft ground of a high plateau, meeting a quick halt as it rammed into the narrow canyon's opposite wall.
The tattoo on the back of her bald head branded her as Prisoner 849 of the Prison Vessel 254, NC114-85EKLS Vortex Rikers, and as she sat there, it seemed an unfair marking. The Rikers was gone—crashed, burning like a piece of scrapped wood—and it hardly mattered if she was a convict or not, and what number she was, or not. Everyone—or mostly everyone—was dead.
And she had heard such—terrible screams—
The rabbit loped towards her, putting all of its weight on one wide back paw at a time. 849 bleakly thought of snapping its leg and watching it flounder. After all, that was the position she was in now. She couldn't get anywhere, couldn't do anything. Floundering. Drowning.
There, there it was again. A cry of agony, a cry of terror, from inside the Rikers. It rent against her ears and struck her heart with cold horror, making her pupils shrink to pinpoints of black in her dull eyes. She hadn't had water in nearly a week; otherwise she would have pissed herself.
She had found it strange that, a few hours after she woke up after the crash, she was still hearing people screaming. She had originally thought that the criminally insane quarters hadn't been fully damaged, and, perhaps, there were still inmates strapped to their beds in the cramped cells, but as she worked her way through the crumpled rooms of the ship, she found it wasn't the case. These sounds weren't the normal rants of insane people. These were the sounds of people being preyed upon, people being tortured, people meeting horrendous ends—and she knew exactly what that sounded like.
And then, that creature—!
It was completely by chance that she had come upon a group of personnel in the hallways of the Rikers. The only trouble was, her way was blocked by a partially closed door, which had been jolted loose from its magnetic hinges and lay ajar in its frame. She was about to squeeze herself through the wedge-shaped opening it left when terrified shrieking made her freeze in her tracks and crouch, shivering, as she listened to the savage snarls and feeble gunshots in the room beyond. When the terrible sounds of rending flesh and splashing blood had ceased, 849 worked up the courage to peek under the door to see if the way was clear.
The room housed a control node for many of the door locks in the prison cells in the sector. It was small, and there were boxes of unused supplies in the corner. The computer screen and motherboard were smashed to bits—a mangled body lay across the equipment.
—And the remains of some five or so humans lay scattered on the ground like refuse. She could plainly make out the delineation of a ribcage and spinal column not three feet away from the door she was crouched behind. A severed head had been flung against the wall and lay crushed on top of one of the supply boxes. Torsos, arms, legs, and entrails were strewn around the room, painting it slick with crimson.
In the middle of it all, standing like a statue save for its twitching tail, what looked to be a flat-faced lizard creature surveyed his work, blood dripping audibly from two jagged blades protruding from the skin of its wrist.
It had taken every ounce of her will not to scream. The world grew dark, and when she woke up, her face was pressed into the floor, and the creature was gone. She had made her way out of the ship after that, jumping at every sound, trying not to look at the bodies strewn on the ground, slumped up against the walls, hanging from the steel crossbeams in the pilot's bay—
And then she had made it out of the ship via an emergency lock in the floor, and the place that had been her cage for months—years!—gave way to a waterfall. And a rabbit…thing.
For such a long time, she had dreamed of freedom. It mattered not that she didn't deserve it. She had longed to feel the wind on her face, on her bare wrists, in her hair, which, before it had been shorn off, had been glossy, beautiful. She wanted to walk somewhere, perhaps where there was grass, without being bonded by magnetic cuffs, or being escorted by a team of NEG Marines training laser sights on the back of her head. She wanted to live again, to set foot on solid ground.
But not like this. This—this wasn't fair.
She was stranded. She was trapped. It didn't matter that the crash of the Rikers had released her from its creaking hull. Even as she sat on the dry ground, listening to the pounding of water on water behind her, she was imprisoned again. Her only mode of escape was in a burning heap, taking with it all the food and supplies that she had become accustomed to for the past six years of her life.
She was trapped.
For a fleeting moment, the Enforcer's bite to her head seemed a gentle thing. But, like all moments, it passed. 849 had had plenty of opportunities to take her own life, and she was too tired of the sight of blood to think of her own staining the ground. Besides, she noted as an afterthought. It might spoil the grass for the rabbit.
She looked at the sky, which was darker now, with puffy black clouds building behind the plateaus above her, holding the promise of rain—or whatever fell from the sky on this hunk of rock. A couple of winged creatures soared in and out of the cloud of smoke rising from the Rikers. Aside from them and the rabbit, she was the only thing that seemed remotely alive in the whole canyon.
And considering that she was sitting in a pool of her own blood that had welled up from the huge gash in her thigh, had had no food for a week and no water for days, 849 knew that being remotely alive wasn't good enough for survival. She had to move, to go somewhere, to find something—or someone—that could help her regain her strength. She had picked up a first-aid kit in the pilot's bay, but it only held a ball of gauze, which had been soaked through already; the crimson stain was turning brown against her leg.
She looked to her left. Beyond the curve in the canyon wall were several large boulders and a tree that looked suspiciously like a palm. Beyond these were familiar structures—large, rust-colored containers with the UMS logo branded on the side—strewn on the ground. Supply boxes from the Rikers. From the looks of them, it was heavy equipment—the UMS ship often ferried military equipment from Earth to the far prison moons along with the inmates; perhaps tank engines, or generators, more likely. Either way, they were useless.
She squinted through the caked blood on her eyelids. There was a flash of yellow from beyond the cargo boxes. A bush, perhaps—but bushes weren't that tall. Or that smooth. Another box?
No. A roof. The roof of a hut.
The rabbit whinnied again. 849 glanced at it apprehensively. It had wandered away from her and now was busying itself with a plant growing around the bottom of the palm tree. It was drooping with heavy-looking fruit. She made a mental note to check it out when she could walk.
It was a roof. Built by the prisoners? They were a resourceful bunch, yes—at the outset of this particular trip, a 400-level convict (Kragon? Cargon? His name had gotten around after his particularly gruesome execution) had fashioned a magnet to disrupt the computerized locks on his cell. He had hidden in the ventilation system and had stalled the flight of the Rikers for two weeks. Perhaps some of them had survived and opted to remain close to the ship to pick up stragglers. Most of the prisoners believed in strength in numbers, seeing as it had always been them versus the cell block guards. But where did they get the materials?
Maybe there were indigenous creatures on the surface, and they built the hut…? Surely it couldn't be the lizard-man; she highly doubted that a creature of such stance and type would live in a squalid canyon. There wasn't anything to feed on here, from the look of things. Except the rabbit, of course, but she only counted one.
It started to rain.
At first she didn't notice. The sound of the waterfall had dulled her ears to the soft sounds of splashing on the dry ground, and her mild state of shock had numbed her senses so the light, cold pricks of water on her face and neck were barely felt. It was only when the rabbit shook itself and dashed for cover that she noticed she was being thoroughly soaked. She remained sitting for a minute more, watching the rain skim off of the Rikers' hull, and then put both hands on the now-muddy ground and pushed herself into a standing position, gripping the Enforcer as she straightened her back. Blood ran into her eyes; she couldn't see.
She counted the steps it took her to get under the shadow of the main rear thruster of the Rikers. It was an ugly ship, built in an uninspired, boxy shape with a troublesome generator powering a thruster that belched silicon-age pollution wherever it flew. Looking at its dented and destroyed hull, it seemed an even more pitiful craft than when it was at its prime—if it ever was in a condition that could be considered prime.
The dirt that had been churned up in the wake of the crash was warm and dry, and 849 slumped to the ground once more, holding her knees to her chest and listening to the fat drops of rain on the hull of the ship. She could still hear the prison break alarms.
It seemed like a kind of dream. She had been alive before the crash; existing was probably the proper term. "Life" on a prison ship meant fighting with cellmates, poisoned food served by bitter guards, rampant sickness in the quarters, and the threat of the electric chair if there was any hint of misbehavior from the inmates. Years inside the same ship, in the same cell, facing the same person in the adjacent unit, listening to the same voices—
Sameness. She was so used to sameness that she couldn't absorb the monumental changes that had taken place. For a ship to plummet out of hyperspace, pulled as if by an invisible hand, and crash-land in the time span of less than an hour—for herself to wake up and find her sameness was disrupted by blood and twisted metal and the smell of burning flesh—to wake up a solitary soul in a ghost ship, with no future but a confusion of pain and loss and, eventually, death…!
849 sat, looking out at the waterfalls across the canyon, and spent the night alone.