KS: The New Generation
A story written by Raiden and The Mootking
Inspired by the countless characters, worlds and creativity of the users
THE LAST GENERATION
Chapter 1: Everything Dies
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
A story written by Raiden and The Mootking
Inspired by the countless characters, worlds and creativity of the users
THE LAST GENERATION
Chapter 1: Everything Dies
“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”
World TECH, 8 Hours Left
Tiberius Hawke Jr. ran like he had never ran before. It wasn’t common to see the young, well-dressed man running like that, especially considering the fact that the only thing supporting his already busted leg was a vastly outdated cybernetic brace. Still, if there was any moment in all of existence which absolutely necessitated running as fast as one was capable of, this was most certainly it. The End of Days had come. As clichéd as it sounded, there was no other way to describe the absolute terror that had consumed the streets of his home. Every horrible thing that he could imagine could happen to a world was happening to his right at that very moment. The building he was in, the Multiverse Exploration Center, was shaking like a piece of laundry in a gale, with only its reinforced foundation preventing it from falling over like most of its neighbors. Still, the walls and floors were slowly giving in to the strain, cracking and falling apart as they stood. And even if the building miraculously survived for another 20 minutes, the lava from the volcano that had just erupted about half a mile away from it was bound to dissolve it soon enough. And if that didn’t do the trick… Well, the neutron star quickly approaching the Earth was most certainly going to.
The world was ending. Within a matter of minutes, Earth’s crust would’ve been pulled into the neutron star’s gravitational pull, alongside every living creature on it, every monument ever crafted by human hands, every memory that intelligent life ever existed in this corner of the Universe. By hour’s end, there would be absolutely nothing remaining of the Earth. If the star didn’t disappear just as suddenly as it had appeared, it was probably going to quickly start dragging in the rest of the solar system with it, though Hawke was pretty sure that this destruction was no random act of nature’s whim, but a deliberate attack solely aimed at this particular planet. After all, as one of the MEC’s chief scientists, he had witnessed it happen over and over and over. Various versions of Earth located in different dimensions would just vanish out of thin air in a matter of hours, never to be seen or heard from again. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that this was a fate that would eventually befall their own world. Hawke himself had met with the Council to discuss the problem about a week ago, presenting them with evidence of the impending disaster and assuring them that the end was coming, whether they liked it or not. His solution was to use the Bastion, a trans-dimensional travel device, to transport as many people as possible to an unoccupied Earth on the edge of the Multiverse, then use whatever resources they had at their disposal to go off-planet. The proposal was, of course, laughed off immediately. “You expect us to just leave our world, our very dimension, solely on a hunch that you have? Preposterous!” councilman Michael Hikari had said to him, quickly gathering the support of the rest of the Council. Even the men in power who were willing to listen, such as councilmen Wade Wilson and Shinto Sequenze, were ultimately overturned by the vast majority, who preferred to keep their eyes closed to the threat. And ultimately, they paid the ultimate price.
“AYAME, how long do we have?”, the young man asked, out of breath and quickly nearing exhaustion. His leg injury, sustained during a riot instigated by the Mutants, had given him a perfectly valid excuse to spend most of his life seated behind a holographic screen. As much as he blamed the Council for their lack of preparation for the apocalypse, Hawke had to admit that he was guilty of the same thing. Then again, he never really expected that the end of the world would require so much running.
“I do not understand the question, Tiberius”, a female voice echoed inside his head. Hawke sighed. For an AI telepathically connected to his consciousness, AYAME seriously seemed to miss his point most times. He often thought about going to a specialist to have her examined and possibly fixed, but he never really got around to it… And now he’d have the pleasure of dealing with a faulty AI for however long he had left to live. Oh, joy.
“How long until everything dies?”, he elaborated, his feet stomping down a flight of stairs as he approached the bottom floor of the MEC.
“That is a very difficult question to answer, Tiberius. ‘Everything’ is a broad term, implicitly including life on other planets and--”
“By Hawking himself, AYAME, how long until life on Earth dies?!?”, Hawke yelled out.
The silence in his head seemed to last forever. The young scientist was left with nothing but his thoughts as he descended down to the MEC’s abandoned lobby, with only the android secretary still assuming her post. Androids (a word used to refer to both male and female robots, as “gynoids” quickly became a name reserved for a completely different kind of robot), while lacking the autonomy and self-awareness of AIs, were generally programmed with enough free will to keep themselves out of harm’s way. In case of an emergency, they were ordered to help escort the humans to shelters and then find cover themselves, if there was any. The fact that the secretary was simply standing there, ready to meet and greet like it was any other day, meant that the unit was either faulty, or had simply evaluated the situation and deduced that there was zero chance of survival, for itself or for mankind. And the worst part was that it was right.
“AYAME?”, Hawke asked as he made his way to the front door, hastily reaching into the pocket of his air-force blue coat and searching for his ID card. While most facilities had switched to DNA identification, a recent database crashed forced them to go back to the old fashioned way. It was supposed to be temporary, but...
“You are not going to like it, Tiberius”, the AI responded.
“How long?!?”, he persisted, pulling out the card and pressing it against the scanner.
AYAME kept quiet for a few moments.
“Seventeen minutes. After that, the Earth’s crust will become too hot to support any sort of life, intelligent or otherwise. Complete global annihilation is expected within the next forty minutes”, the female voice spoke. “I am sorry, Tiberius. There is simply no time”
“No time for what?” Hawke asked quietly. He already knew the answer before AYAME’s voice echoed within his mind again.
“For anything”, she responded solemnly.
The man sighed quietly, pulling his ID card away from the scanner when it became apparent that it wasn’t doing anything. The solar flares caused by the neutron star must have burned out all electronics that weren’t specifically designed to withstand an EMP, meaning that anything not manufactured in the last 5 years, or anything not expensive enough, had gone the way of the lion. Hawke couldn’t even imagine what was going on outside, when his highly technological society was deprived of the one thing that had kept it going. His people would die surrounded by chaos, fear and panic… And he was there, stuck inside the only building in the world that could have helped them.
A pair of tears rolled down Tiberius’ cheeks when the realization finally hit him. He had failed his people. His entire world was going to die. He was going to die. As selfish as it seemed, Hawke really didn’t want to die. Ever since his father passed away, the young man had developed something of a phobia of death. Perhaps deep down that had been the reason for his research into alternative worlds had been caused by his own desire to escape, to avoid facing reality. And now he had no choice but to do just that, at a moment when reality couldn’t possibly be any more bleak. The young man curled up in the corner by the entrance, hugging his legs and burying his face in his knees.
“Tiberius?”, AYAME spoke in his head, but received no response. “Tiberius, please… Say something”
“Something?”, the scientist chuckled sadly. “What am I supposed to say? The world has ended. There’s… There’s going to be nothing left. In fifteen minutes, everything will be gone. And there’s nothing I can do about it! Nothing!” he yelled out, striking the wall next to him with his fist.
“But there is more than one world out there, Tiberius. What of them?” AYAME asked.
“I don’t… I don’t know. Does it even matter?” he asked, and almost immediately regretted it. Of course it mattered. Billions of lives were already lost, but trillions more were still there, completely unaware of the danger they were in. Still, even if they were warned, what could be done? Hawke was fairly certain that his world was the only one in the observable multiverse that had perfected interdimensional travel, so somehow warning the rest of the worlds would only cause unnecessary panic… If anyone listens at all. After all, the phrase “Hey, I’m from a different universe and have come to warn you about the apocalypse” doesn’t exactly emanate confidence. And even if they did have their own Bastions, where would they go? As far as he could tell, the neutron star targeted every single world in the observable (and possibly non-observable) universe. There was simply nowhere they could go. There was nothing anyone could do to stop this madness.
Or was there?
Tiberius’ head bolted back upwards as his brain made the connection. At this point, he couldn’t tell if the idea was his own or if AYAME had fed it to him telepathically in order to keep him from falling into despair, but… It made sense, in a weird, roundabout way.
“The Conduit…”, Hawke whispered. The AI said nothing, her silence affirming his words. Even though no question was asked, they both knew that if there was a right answer, that was their best bet at it.
Several months ago, while performing a routine scan of the inhabitants of several neighboring worlds, something, or rather, someone, stuck out like a sore thumb. The thing was, most universes were populated by alternate versions of the same people. For example, there was a version of Hawke in almost every other world - in World MURPHY he was the leader of a biker gang, and on World XENO he was the commander of a small military unit. Each of these people was the same exact person, just shaped differently based on the circumstances of the world surrounding them. Different facets of the same soul. Hell, even people who at first didn’t appear to be one and the same - such as the famous artist Nayumi Tachibana from his world and the prosecutor Mina Hamm from World ACE - were eventually proven to be the same person via remote DNA analysis. Ultimately, there was only a very limited number of souls in the multiverse, but these souls had an infinite number of facets.
All except one.
On World PRIME - the very first world World TECH managed to discover - Tiberius found something extraordinary, at least as far as he was concerned. He managed to find a soul with a single facet. There were no other versions of this person throughout the Multiverse. Hawke scanned hundreds upon hundreds of worlds, each one more incredible than the last, yet that soul still remained with only one facet. Furthermore, any and all attempts to get deeper information about this person failed. Aside from the person’s energy signature, which was used to scan other worlds for additional facets, Hawke and his coworkers had nothing. No DNA sample, no appearance, not even a name. It was like the multiverse itself was shielding this person. It was an anomaly, to say the least - the only thing about multiversal travel that no one at MEC could even come up with a theory for, let alone explain properly. That person came to be known as the Conduit, which at first came as a joke by someone who claimed that they needed a ‘cool name’, but eventually stuck.
“Do you really believe that the Conduit could help in any way?”, AYAME asked cautiously. It seemed to Hawke that she was trying not to bring his hopes up too much, but it was a bit too late for that.
“What other choice do I have? Just stay here and die?”, Hawke pushed himself up, leaning against the wall. “I’m going to do what they never let me before. I’m going to find the Conduit”
“And then?”, the AI’s voice echoed in his head.
“And then… We’ll figure the rest out. But for now, I need to get the hell out of here and get to the Bastion. AYAME, are the emergency exits functional?”
“Negative, Tiberius. The only emergency exit has been caved in by the quakes. But I am working on it”
“Working on it? What the hell are you gonna--”
As if to answer his question, the main door next to him suddenly flew out like it had been launched by a slingshot, only barely missing the android behind the desk. Hawke couldn’t help but jump in fright, his head instinctively turning back towards where the large, metal door once proudly blocked his way. In their stead, a mechanical humanoid stood proudly, towering at over 3 meters in height. Hawke quickly recognized the sleek, curvy design of the exoskeleton - the military was here.
“Looks like I’m here just in time… For whatever that’s worth”, a female voice emanated from the suit’s speakers. “Sayuri Motozaki, Pilot First Class. You must be Tiberius Hawke? The scientist?”
“I don’t understand… Everyone was already evacuated. How did you know I was here?”
“Your AI notified mine. Said that you were trapped in there”, the woman explained. “You’re designated as a VIP, so I just couldn’t leave you to rot”
“VIP? Since when is a MEC scientist considered VIP?”
“Since the world ended and we need your technology to get the hell out of here”, Sayuri spoke as her mech shifted to the side, allowing the young man to step out and finally witness what the world really looked like at the twilight of its existence.
The normally dark-blue sky, altered by years of experimentation with the atmosphere and the release of countless chemicals, was now tinted blood-red, courtesy of the neutron star’s light, which seemed to change the closer it was to Earth. Hawke, of course, could only glance up at it for a split second before the brightness forced him to avert his gaze back to the ground. The first thing he saw was the gigantic crack right in the middle of the street in front of him. The massive earthquake that shook the building a few minutes ago had left its ugly mark, and it had made crossing over to the other side practically impossible. Perhaps that was why they’d deployed the Mechs.
“How much of the city is like this?”, Hawke asked.
“All of it, I think. East Yamaku’s in shambles. There’s nothing left out there. The Spine isn’t really faring any better. I was sent there for relief, but there wasn’t much left to relieve. Once the crack opened right below the Dorms there wasn’t much left we could do”, Sayuri sighed. “And that’s just for Yamaku City. From what I hear, the rest of the country… Hell, the rest of the world… It’s pretty much gone. But after Global Comms got fried by the EMP there’s really no way to be sure”
Hawke looked down. He’d grown up in East Yamaku. That’s where his mother and sister were, and also most of his childhood friends. His home was gone… There was nothing left. And soon, his whole planet was going to follow suit. The young man shuddered, trying not to think about it. There was little point in mourning. He reminded himself that he had to focus on saving the rest of the Multiverse, if that was at all possible.
“Take me to the Bastion”, he spoke firmly.
The Bastion wasn’t particularly far away - the device was located in the hangar of a military base about 300 meters away from MEC. The most advanced transportation device in the history of the multiverse was hidden in plain sight, right in the heart of Yamaku City. Unfortunately, when the world went to hell, everyone and their mother suddenly wanted a ride on the only thing that could save their lives, if only for a little bit. When Sayuri delivered Hawke to the military base, the place was absolutely surrounded - hundreds of civilians, practically every single person who had survived the destruction of the city, was gathered around the base, banging on the fence like they were extras in a zombie movie. A few even tried to scale the metal fence, only to receive a 50 000 volt shock from the invisible force field above it. The few soldiers who had decided to stay on their posts instead of spend their last moments with their families were completely overwhelmed by the crowd, only occasionally firing warning shots in the air, which seemed to do very little to deter the desperate people.
After a short flight, Sayuri landed straight in the middle of the military base’s field, with Hawke clinging for dear life on her back. These suits weren’t really meant for transporting more than one person, as the young scientist discovered the hard way. Still, they managed to make it to the Bastion with minutes to spare, which was what mattered. Their landing seemed to rather irk the crowd, which immediately began shouting and booing, assuming that this man who was just brought in had priority for the Bastion over them, without realizing that they were completely lost without him. As the young scientist tried to catch his breath, he was approached by a man in a black military uniform. The insignia on his right shoulder proudly displayed an eagle on top of the Earth,with its wings spread, while the one on his left shoulder showed a stylized talon. Hawke wasn’t much of a military guy, but he could quickly deduce that the man in front of him was a former Marine and a current Predator… If either of those units even meant anything right now.
“Sergeant Satoshi Veach, Predator Squad Alpha”, the man introduced himself with a salute. Hawke dismissed him with a scoff. As much as he hated the Mutants, the scientist hated the Predators, also known as the Mutant Hunters, even more. For years they’d been fueling a conflict that did not need to exist in the first place, making Mutants desperate and pushing them into last-ditch acts of terrorism that they wouldn’t have committed otherwise. How ironic that a man who once pursued and executed men, women and children just because of their genetic makeup was now concerned with protecting those very same people from an even larger threat.
“Are the other MEC scientists in the Bastion already?”, Hawke asked, looking around. Sergeant Veach kept quiet for a moment.
“Sir… You’re the only one who made it. Everyone else is either MIA or deceased”
Tiberius’ mouth gaped open as he heard the soldier’s words. How was that even possible?!? There were dozens of people working alongside him on the Bastion! Really, Hawke wasn’t even that high-ranking in the grand scheme of things. Surely at least one or two of his superiors - hell, of his coworkers - would have saved themselves!
“Are you… Are you sure?”, he asked, turning his head towards Sayuri.
“I’m positive, Mr. Hawke. I’ve been unable to contact any of the other scientists’ AIs, which means that they’re either dead or simply don’t wish to be disturbed. Your AYAME is the only one who responded”
Tiberius placed his hands on his head. From the moment the Pilot rescued him, the young man had assumed that he’d be brought to the rest of the scientists, to figure out a way to do… anything within the last couple of minutes they had left. Learning that he was alone changed everything.
“I… What do you need me to do?”, he looked at the Predator in front of him.
Sergeant Veach wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve.
“Just figure out a way to get these people out of here. If we save someone… Anyone… That’s better than nothing, right?”
“AYAME, how long do we have?”
“Nine minutes left until the Earth’s crust overheats, Tiberius”, the AI’s voice echoed in his head.
“Alright, that should be enough… The Bastion has a four-person limit, and while it usually only has enough energy for one trip in both directions at full capacity, returning it here should recharge it. If we take half a minute per trip, that means I’ll be able to save about 40 people”
The soldier sighed quietly.
“That’s not nearly everyone here… But it’s something. Do your thing, Mr. Hawke”
“I’ll have to perform a calibration ride first, though. I mean, there’s no way to know if the Earth we go to hasn’t already been destroyed. I’ll go in, take a peek and then come back if everything is okay. Travelling with the Bastion is instantaneous, so it won’t take me more than 20 seconds”
“You’re the scientist. Just make it quick. Every second counts”, the soldier stated.
The man in black stepped towards the smaller gate to the right of the main one, facing the crowd that had gathered around the fence.
“Alright, people, listen up! The Bastion has some pretty heavy limits, so we’ll only be able to take some of you! Children have priority, so if you have children with you please bring them forward!”
Contrary to what Hawke expected, the crowd didn’t start booing, making demands and threatening the soldiers. After the announcement, most of the people who had surrounded the base simply walked off, refusing to spend their last moments clinging onto an empty hope. As the news of the announcement began spreading throughout the crowd, a surprisingly large amount of people began bringing their children towards the gate. A minute or two later, about fifty or sixty kids, aged anywhere between two and thirteen, began forming their own little crowd in front of the main gate. The younger ones were crying, confused and terrified by everything that was happening around them. Some of the parents there tried to say their goodbyes with the children, while others assured them that they would be right there with them in only a few minutes. Sergeant Veach gripped his gun tightly. This wasn’t fair. They had done nothing to deserve such a cruel fate. The world, with all its conflicts, issues and pain, was still a wonderful, amazing place. It shouldn’t have ended this way. Its death shouldn’t have been so… filthy. But there was nothing any of them could do about it. Nothing but curse whatever God had allowed this to happen.
As soon as he was given clearance by the soldier, Hawke dashed straight into Hangar #3, where the Bastion had been hidden. The spherical device didn’t appear particularly impressive on the outside - really, it looked more like a cheap prop from a low-budget TV series than an actual transdimensional travel device. Its texture appeared rusted, wires stuck out of it for no apparent reason, and the door had to be opened mechanically instead of digitally like literally every single door in the world. Its design was in stark contrast with the highly sleek appearance of most of the world’s technology. It almost seemed like it didn’t even belong there, which was kind of the point - the MEC scientists didn’t want it to seem too out of place in worlds that weren’t really all that technologically advanced. Its insides, on the other hand, were sufficiently high-tech - the internal part of the sphere was entirely white, with four chairs placed in a circle, with a holographic display in front of each one. The Bastion could easily be operated by just one person if the coordinates of the destination were known, but multiversal exploration - which was how theorized Earths were officially discovered, with devices implanted for remote observation - required a complete crew of four.
Unfortunately, Hawke was denied that luxury, so he had to make do with what he had. After entering, the young scientist closed the door behind him and quickly sat down on one of the chairs before activating the holographic display in front of him with a swipe of his fingers.
“Where would we take the refugees, Tiberius?”, AYAME asked.
“World PRIME seems like a good place. It’s relatively safe, as far as we could tell - no Mutants, no cyborgs, no extraterrestrial threats… Sure, they haven’t really created a way to purify their atmosphere yet, but they’ll get there. And besides…”
“The Conduit is there”, the AI added.
Hawke merely nodded, his fingers swiftly adding in the spatial coordinates of World PRIME.
“The evacuation won’t mean anything if we can’t stop whatever’s wrong with the Multiverse. And if there’s any key to fixing this, it’s got to be the Conduit”
“Can you really be sure, Tiberius?”
“No. In fact…”, he spoke as the transportation procedure began. “I’m most likely wrong. I mean, I’ve got nothing but a hunch to suggest that the two anomalies are in any way connected. But it’s better to go there and try to do something than to just wait around for death”
A moment later, the holographic display in front of Hawke read “TRANSPORTING” with big, white letters. If it wasn’t for that visual cue, the young scientist would’ve had no idea that anything was even happening. Due to the way multiversal travel worked, a trip on the Bastion was more comparable to an elevator ride than a car drive. It was quick and practical, but not particularly eventful - not that Hawke really wanted any more events in his life at the moment. When the “TRANSPORTING” message changed to “TRANSPORTED”, the young man jumped from his chair and rushed for the door, twisting the handle down in an attempt to open it.
“AYAME, did you lock the doors?”, he asked.
“Indeed, Tiberius. I have to evaluate the environment outside before I let you go there”
The young man sighed. He knew that his AI had a point, but considering how pressed for time they were, he kinda wished that he hadn’t given her privileges to access compatible technology at her leisure. Then again, he never really suspected that a feature marketed as a glorified way to remotely interact with household appliances could ever have any sort of negative repercussions.
“Hurry up. We really don’t have time to be mucking about”, the young man spoke.
“Tiberius, about that… I am afraid I need to confess something to you”
The scientist’s blood froze. That didn’t sound good.
“What are you talking about?”
“The timeframe I gave you back on World TECH was slightly more generous than the reality”
Hawke’s insides melted. The moment his AI said this, he immediately knew deep in his heart exactly what that meant. His mind, on the other hand, refused to accept it.
“What did you do, AYAME? What did you do?!?”, he screamed.
“When you reached the base, the Earth’s crust had already began heating. Within a few minutes, the world will become too hot to support life”
“Well… Well, that’s good, right? We still have a few minutes! We can--”
“That would be too dangerous, Tiberius. I am sorry. I saw no other way to get you to safety”
Without listening to a word his AI was saying, Hawke immediately jumped back into his chair and attempted to enter the coordinates to his homeworld, only to find out that his fingers moved across the holographic display like they were going through pure air.
“You bitch! Unlock the controls right now!”
“I am afraid I can not do that, Tiberius. World TECH is doomed, alongside everyone on it. You need to focus on finding the Conduit”
“LIKE HELL I DO!”, Hawke yelled, standing up. He looked around, desperate to find something - anything - that could help him manually override AYAME’s lock, but there was nothing. The Bastion’s engineers simply hadn’t thought of the possibility that a rogue AI could hijack the most powerful transportation device in history. Things like that just didn’t really happen. And the one time it did, it doomed an entire world. With tears in his eyes, the young scientist slumped back into his seat before curling up into a fetal position.
His Earth was gone.
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