A large desert wasteland covered the horizon. Rocks stuck out of the baked and cracked ground. The sky was red in the coming dusk, and nothing stirred. There were no animals, no people, and no wind to disturb the silent terrain. Until something moved. A little boy, perhaps ten or twelve, slipped in and out of the shelter of the rocks. He wore a tattered cloak tied around his neck, and goggles on his forehead to protect him from the sun or sand. His skin was tanned and dry, but his eyes were bright and full of curiosity, for he had seen the small outbreak of motion below, and went to investigate. After a few minutes of running, he began to believe that whatever was down there had disappeared back into the sandy wasteland, but then he saw something.
There, a couple yards in front of him, was a tall, robed figure. Much taller than any grown-up the child had seen. The robe covered much of the figure's face, and the boy couldn't even see if it had one. The boy took a step forward, and the figure turned around immediately. The kid drew back and hid behind a rock, his blood pumping. The boy took a deep breath and closed his eyes, and began to hear foot steps. The figure was leaving. The boy waited a moment before peering behind the rock again. The figure was walking right for another rock. The boy was confused. The figure didn't even slow down as he approached the boulder. But the moment the figure touched the rock, he disappeared.
The boy's mouth dropped open in surprise. Though slowly at first, he ran over to the boulder and felt the sides of it. It was completely solid, but how did the figure get in, then? Maybe the figure was a spectre! Maybe he just walked through! But no, his guardians had told him that no such things could exist. But he knew what he saw, and if it wasn't a ghost, then it was a...
The boy turned around and sprinted away, his chest tightening from fear and the dash. If something this odd happened, he was told, then it was from the robotic beasts that tore apart this land before he was even born. It was those warring robots, the Matrix! He ran behind a rock and stopped to catch his breath. He began to feel sorry he ever followed that thing. If it was from the Matrix, and it knew where he was, he must've endangered his whole family. A shadow passed over him. He looked up to see what looked like a bird fly over him. The boy smiled for a moment, but it left as a thought struck him. He was told that birds left the land long ago. Then what was...
The bird circled around and drew closer, and the boy's eyes widened with terror. The bird was mechanical. It was a matrix mech. And crawling over it like hatch lings on a spider, were humanoid Matrix drones. The boy sprinted off just in time as the drones dropped off of their ornithoid ride. The boy crawled into a small crevice in the rocks and curled up inside, shivering from the upcoming cold. He heard the thudding of the drones hit the ground, but to his relief they weren't coming towards him. But he knew better than to get out and look. He had better wait until the drones were well away. A few minutes passed and the boy finally looked out of the rock. The drones were approaching the rock that the specter had just disappeared into. They apparently knew where the figure had went off to, and wanted to find him, for good or ill. But by the looks of the creatures and their weapons, they weren't looking for peaceful negotiations. The boy noticed that one drone had just stopped to turn around. The boy wisely retreated back to his hiding spot and squeezed his eyes shut.
The only illumination in the room was the monitors that flickered on when the figure entered his secret chamber, and that was just the way he liked it. The figure pulled down his hood, but the shadows still blocked the features of his face, but for what was sure, his face bore no human features. The figure approached one of the monitors and started to work with a nearby console. The bright screen began to show a picture. The image was fuzzy and mottled, but re-adjusting brought the clear picture of a news report. The figure scowled at the report. It was a live documentary from Jericho city, which was a many days trek away. He listened closely to the report as it caught his interest.
…'In the city's hard time with all the disappearing people and constant outbreaks from lone Matrix drones, the city of Jericho was facing a crisis. However, in these passing months, a hero appeared. Though at first it appeared to be another Matrix drone, this was what we now know are called Neo-Soldiers; humans crossed with the Matrix's dreadful technology. Most Neo-Soldiers are ordered to attack or capture, this one revolted and protected us, single-handedly protected us from the Matrix's endless attempts to bring this city to the ground. Though skeptical at first, the government came to accept this crusader's help, and even named the figure, -'
The figure snarled upon hearing the name, but kept listening.
'However, after the Matrix's latest and seemingly last attempt at the city's destruction, he vanished. Not a trace of the already incognito hero were found. Some believe that he gave his life and defeated the Matrix, but none can be sure-
At that, the figure turned the machine off. He stalked back and forth in his cavern, his eyes glared at the dusty floor. How could a Renegade so willingly stand still and hold his ground, other than flee and be rid of the predicament all together?! The fool was still too Mortal. Not all his mortality was burned away by the flames of the Matrix's cruelty!
The figure looked up from his pacing and his eyes narrowed. And, that is why, he is doomed to corruption. The heart of a mortal is easily broken by the power of a Neo-Soldier. He's obviously alive. My interventions have disrupted things, and he probably hasn't found the Ether, yet. That gives me a chance to remove him, and the Matrix, before he evolves. A sound was coming from a further area of the chamber.
The figure stalked down the corridor and entered a room filled with large containers stuck to the wall, and one was shaking. The figure approached the container, which was, in fact, a stasis pod, and whatever was inside, was awakening. The figure approached the pod and pressed a small button on the side. A gas filled the inside of the pod, and the thrashing gradually died down. "Sleep..." the figure rumbled in a voice that was barely human. "Our plan hasn't initiated. A sleeping warrior need only wake when it is his time..."
The figure stared until the pod became completely still again. He stalked back and forth around the pods. There were little over ten with him. He wanted more, but he decided to make the most of it. Do I have enough? he asked himself. There's the chance that they won't listen, and the chance that they may remember what they were... My plan may fall into ruin. But... I can always make new ones, though I'd hate to do that to people who are still existent in the world. Such prices, for a better future. The Matrix must not survive. Lycaon must not come to be. If any of this were to happen, then history will repeat itself once again.
A rumbling interrupted his thoughts. He looked up and watched as the ceiling began to crack. Large sounds came from outside. The figure snarled again. They found me... He thought to himself.
The boy stared as the drones opened fire on the large rock. But after the first few shots, the boulder disappeared, and what was left was what looked like a fractured part of a large machine. The large Bird Mech dove in and clawed at the apparition. What do they want? the boy thought to himself.
The bird drove its claws into the structure and started flapping its large metallic wings furiously. The Structure shifted and groaned, but would not move. The drones came forward and jumped on to the building, driving their arms into the metal framework. One succeeded in tearing off a large piece of the wall. It turned to its comrades and let out a triumphant screech. Its lower mouthpiece split like a spider's when it squealed, which gave the boy shakings of fright.
The bird let go and flew away, but began to circle back. Its wings began to glow a bright neon-green, its beak split like a flower and started to rotate, and finally a sparking blast of energy was released that hit the structure, shattering it. The structure all but crumbled, leaving the figure and his pods exposed. The boy gasped at the site. The figure's head, which was metallic and synthetic, looked canine, and reminded him of Anubis, an Egyptian legend that wouldn't be out of place in this desert.
The figure threw his hood back upon his head and held out his hand. A blast of black-violet energy struck the mech and hit it into the ground. The figure leaned down and picked up a scepter from the ground. He struck the ground once with it, and it began to glow as circuitry-like markings illuminated it. The figure chuckled and in one swift motion, swung the scepter to one side, sending a wave of energy that struck the drones, and kept going. The wave hit the rock the boy hid in and brought it to the ground. The boy crawled out just in time before the rock crumbled on top of him. It was done. The figure approached a dying drone and stepped on its chest. The drone looked up at the figure and began to sputter barely audible words. "Kr-! Kra-! Ram-ses... Ramses!" At those words the figure crushed the drone with his foot. The figure turned back to his wrecked base and approached the pods. Some of the pods were damaged, and the exposed circuitry sputtered sparks. His eyes narrowed. "At this rate..." he whispered. "I will have to re-establish!" He angrily threw his sceptre to the ground with an animal like growl.
"Ramses?" The figure slowly turned around and looked at the boy. "Ramses, is that your name?" The boy asked. The figure was silent. "...Ramses was the name of a king of Egypt. I think the name is cool, like what you just did. What else can you do?" The boy asked. The figure turned away. He picked up his sceptre and raised it in the air, and the boy fell back in fear. But the the figure brought it down and let it rest upon his shoulder. It looked back at the boy, and its gaze softened. "You are brave... and smart. But I have no time to dawdle. I have work to do." The figure threw out his hand. "Go!" he shouted. "Tell others where I am, if you must, but I will be gone before night comes."
The boy rose to his feet and ran off. The figure looked at the pods. "Ramses." he thought to himself. "...It need not matter." He approached the pods. I need to move these. If I disrupt the process, their minds will be blank... but I have no choice. They'll know what to do. Memories are not readily necessary in what I need them for.
The moon shone bright in the night sky. One could've read a book in this light with little trouble, but the sheer cold was unbearable. A small layer of frost covered the desert ground. In the morning, the sun would melt the ice and the water would bake the ground even more. This cycle made the desert more and more barren, and it has done so more than twenty years.
The boy returned to the site, but this time, with an adult. They wore larger, thicker cloaks in exchange for the thinner ones from earlier in the day that would only protect them from the sun. Their faces were nearly completely covered with a face-cloth that kept the sharp cold out of their face, and their goggles were down. They both carried a small double-sided light with them, one light flashed a color, and the other one gave off light for vision. If anyone from an easy city like Jericho were to see them out in the night, their goggles shining like eyes, they would've easily mistook them for ghosts.
The adult approached the wrecked site and started turning rubble over. All that was left was shattered equipment, pipes, pieces of metal, and other such. "Anything, uncle?!" The boy called through the wind. The man shook his head. "Nothing!" He said as he tossed a pipe away. "Unless what you say isn't true, this might as well be a normal ruin!" But then the man laughed to himself. "Of course, if it was right here this whole time, and we never saw it, then it's not normal at all!" The boy approached the rubble and looked around the ruin. He was hoping to have come sooner, but his uncle, who accompanied him now, said it was too risky to interfere if there was an actual Matrix drone working there. "There were... ten or twelve containment pods against the wall, over there." the boy pointed to the spot, but there was nothing there. The uncle shook his head. "The big guy probably moved them. Why don't ya go and check it out? There might be something we can bring back." The boy nodded and went over to the area, but he didn't want to salvage and get some fancy technology, necessarily. He wanted answers. But it looked like he wouldn't get them any time soon.
The boy started to move what rocks and bars he could, but then noticed something glimmer in the moonlight. He ran over and saw what looked like a transparent sheet in the rubble. He carefully moved the rubble out of the way, and what he saw made him gasp. "What is it?!" the man called. The boy shook his head, he had no time for words. What he had found was one of the pods. He started to unearth the pod some more, and after a moment, the man ran over to help him. After ten minutes of work, the pod was completely visible. The man smiled.
"Looks like there might be some stuff to grab after all!" he said with a clap of his hands. The boy got up and looked around. Now that he saw the pod up close, he realized; that the others were still here! One's corner stuck out of the rocks, and another one was only hidden by the lack of light. The man saw the same thing. "If these things are worth it," he said. "We've hit the motherload!" The man started to move rubble away from the pod they uncovered. "C'mon, let's see if we can't open this!"
After the pod was completely unearthed, the man started to mess with the controls on the side, yielding no results. "This thing still has power, and that's a wonder in itself!" he said as he angrily pressed button after button. "Why'd the guy leave such good tech to rot like this?!" he asked aloud. The boy wasn't listening though. He had uncovered another part of the pod, and saw something marked on it. "Uncle!" He called. "Over here!" The man left his frustration for a moment and went over to the boy. "What's this?" the boy asked as he pointed to the bottom of the pod. There was writing on it, but not any writing the boy was familiar with. It looked like a language, that was for sure. The man looked at the words.
The man scratched his head. "What is it?" The boy asked. "It's... Bulgarian, I think." The man answered. "But what does it say?" the boy asked again. The man thought hard. "It's not that hard... Phantazma, I think. Phantasy...? No! Then it'd have to be Fantasy, but then there's an m..."
"Phantasm?" the boy asked. Silence hung. "...Well it's not out of the Bulgarian dictionary, but I don't see any reason to call it that." The man answered. After a minute the man shrugged and walked back to the controls. "Let's get this thing open and head home. We can come back later with more men." The boy nodded and started to help his uncle. The boy knew little about circuitry or buttons codes, but he was determined. After about ten or so minutes of toil, the Uncle's patience was spent. "...What a piece of junk!" The man shouted as he rose to his feet. "Stubborn piece of... graah!" the man angrily struck the pod with his foot. And then... It opened!
A gray mist rose out of the pod, and the boy backed away. Too bad for the uncle, for he was downwind. One whiff and the man began to lose his footing. "Er... uh... I think... I'll take a... lil' rest..." And with that, the man collapsed. The boy waited until the mist had cleared, and then ran over to his uncle. He was alive, but drugged into sleep. The boy looked back at the pod and carefully approached it, cautious not to inhale any leftover fumes.
The pod was empty. Nothing was in it. The padded interior would've been perfect for a human to rest in, but it was empty. The boy felt a bit disappointed, but he dismissed it as he knew that this could be brought home. He was about to go rouse his uncle, when he saw something glimmer inside the pod. He slowly reached down, and pulled up a small object, looped on a small chain. He held it up to the moonlight, and saw that this was a locket. He tried to open it, but the hinge was locked. He noticed a small hole on the side of the locket. He had half a mind to bust it open, but he decided not to. The writing on the bottom of the pod caught his attention again; Phantasm
The boy kept thinking to himself. Phantasm meant illusion, but more like an illusion so large and real it would be like a dream. The boy looked at the pod. "Why would this be called Phantasm?" he asked aloud.
Because he was trapped in one...