Chrome Magnon // Chapter 01
Hey chums. Reg here, clearly.
Been writing a longish story thing, sort of an action/horror kaiju mashup with a dieselpunk setting. Basically, it's about this nasty world full of giant monsters and weird technology cults who are obsessed with digging up the bio-tech of the ancients. 'Amos' is just some chump hired to do as such, but ends up finding and somehow allying with a giant creature of his own. Getting in way over their heads, they are then exploited by every side in turn, who are after the ultimate prize; The haemonculus shell.
Now, thing is, I really have no idea about the quality of my actual writing, to the point where I've considered illustrating the hell out of this, or even turning it into a full webcomic just so that there is an actual, you know, point to all the effort...
Any input on the matter would be highly, highly appreciated. Even quick, crude remarks like finding it boring would be helpful at this point. Would you read more? Do you think that heavy illustrations would add or detract from it? Did you find it too hard to slug through, and just gave up?...
I really have no input at all yet. >_>
Oh, and the title is very work in progress, too...
Chapter One - Catacombs
Two savage figures clashed in the baked dirt of the decaying salt flats. One was a large upright reptilian giant, half resembling a spindly dinosaur, but also possessing the bulging eyes and harsh inward-skewing features of a predatory insect. The other was a hulking, hunched brute of a man with broad shoulders, gnarled brown skin haunted periodically by a myriad of short scars, and a small wave of black hair curling out from the top of his bull-faced grimace. A rough thing, hands as tempered by hard labor as his psyche was by tedium.
Amos brought his heavy implement down on the raptor mantis' freakish head again, creating a spinning eruption of airborne dirt and stray brown gristle. Regardless of the impact, the mutated creature recovered immediately and retaliated with a viscous lunge towards the chest. It had far more teeth than any practical evolutionary sense, too many eyes and a brown-green splotchy chitinous hide infested with spine hairs the thickness of children's fingers.
Heaving his swollen feet backward and throwing out his arms for momentum, Amos narrowly avoided having his ribcage ripped open for a few more seconds. Beyond hate or disgust, his brain was yanked along with his basic primitive urges for survival. No time to think, no time to plan. His heart blasting along and lungs burning, the information his scenes funneled into his heavy mind became obsolete in the merest split of a second.
It lunged forward again, jaws wide. He arced his metal spiked club up sideways, lending strength from the dry soil to wedge the attack away. The proceeding underhand below he delivered upon the opportunity was worse than useless. He could only back off again desperately and try to bring his crude weapon around for attack once more. His arms ache and his knuckles bleed.
A small respite; It takes a low, defensive stance and lets out a loud, gurgling screech. Taking a breath with the mace slung over his hunched shoulder, the bulky man's fingers ripple along the hilt.
Reflexively, he created a low, vicious growl of his own, then heaved the glorified metal pole into the air. His surging arms powered it downwards, but the raptor-mantis made a move of it's own. Rearing up, the ugly monster smashed into both of his elbows in turn and glanced his chest, creating a new train of momentum that twisted the heavy killing tool from his tired hands and sent him stumbling backwards. His ass didn't even have time to touch the ground before it was biting at him again, trying to rip the flesh from his vulnerable forelegs. Amos pulled them inward and back to it's nose, awkward and ineffective. It didn't give up, instead attempting a new sideways scourging arc towards his guts. One hand to the spiny forehead and one foot to the neck, it was more accurate to say he was knocking himself away from the creature than keeping it at bay.
It feed on his desperation, continuing to nudge him backwards and gain a foothold on his personal space. Hyperactively, the man's free hand scrambled around under his jacket's many inlaid pockets.
The jaws are close. It's frantic breath smelt like a nauseating wave of hot, maggot-eaten cadavers. Gracelessly with his thumb under the grip, he dragged out an arcane, scratched up pistol, and fumbled to get it prepared beneath the marauding creature's jawline.
A finger to the contact stud, and the small, stubby object let out a blinding flash accompanied by a noise that barely registered as anything other than a sharp needle of agony to both ears. His hand recoiled wildly sideways along his chest, whist the now headless bug lizard tumbled backwards in a bloodless cauterized mess of burns and pustules.
His shirt was smoldering against his stomach, and the gun felt red hot in his hand, but his body had given up the will to move the second it's enemy had been torn asunder. Violently coughing and writhing in pain, Amos clung to consciousness and feebly failed to squirm onto his front.
It was another five distorted minutes before his muscles would respond in a somewhat correct capacity. Despite it's redundancy, he found himself lumbering back to his feet in an effort to confirm his enemies' lack of vitality. The panic was still not quite diminished, filling his head with strange and cruel ideas of sudden death or lasting disfigurements. His hands confirmed that the aged pistol was now useless, it's aperture as empty of ammunition as his pockets had been for some time.
“F-...FUGCK!...” Was the only noise he could make, throwing the useless instrument brutally into the desert floor. In order to sedate his rage, he took a shambling gait over to the corpse of the predator, and wearily stomped on it a few times.
His blood eventually slowed and his mind repaired itself back into an operable state, but as yet he could not remove his eyes. For a short eternity, it had been the bane of his existence, and now that it was suddenly dead, he found himself hungering for another attack to viciously take revenge for.
It remained lifeless, no matter how long he choose to stare.
Slowly, he shambled back to his pack animal; A bulky, hairless Gulgian mammal which had bled out on the exact spot which it had fallen. Cursing himself for purchasing such a placid, docile beast, he removed a small bone saw from one of the myriad pockets of his tattered beige traveling jacket. The predator's meat was poisonous to humans, that was common knowledge. He'd have to eat as much of the Gulgian as possible tonight, before moving on.
With dusk now looming over the empty desert plains, and a small campfire brewing before him, he could at least find a friend in the nourishing, if bitter and stringy, muscle of the dead mule-beast.
For a moment, he swore he caught a glimpse of a building on the horizon. Just a small silhouette, the toppled head of some gigantic rusted mushroom.
As the sun rose, Amos’ unflinching eyes glared unswervingly into the fallen tower. His teeth gritted and his hands constantly traded places, squeezing the stress out of his tendons.
A sane man would turn back, this much he knew. The mutated abominations of the wastes were nothing compared to the pure-blooded, true monstrosities still guarding the ruins. Something several degrees worse to a man without a decent gun.
But Amos had been accused of being neither smart or weak in the past. A man of few accomplices, he had grown up in a small community of Jigir nomads. Ten rotations ago, that had ended with him becoming exiled for stealing cattle, yet he still found it far easier to survive in the dirt than in the pomp and ceremony of a proper society.
At any rate, the huntsmen life had lead him into the Isiya wastelands here and now. There were no grand legends of glorious ancient artifacts or heroic prophesies related to it. Not one. Only strange, mindless half-metal things lived here, and the only stories they had to tell were of insatiable hunger and carnage.
Religious zealots from Akadum had acquainted the area with an idea akin to a storeroom of the old hateful gods, and were determined to keep the prying offworlders away from it. It was a living tomb for their lord's forgotten servants.
But this sanctum didn't technically keep out simple native hunters like himself, through, a fact that a rich offworlder named Ingrid was determined to exploit in order to gain data on the repugnant creatures. The woman had contacts and resources to spare, and that was a great deal better than the empty promises the Akadum priests kept their people quiet with. All that she asked in return was the rather straightforward, if risky, business of actually climbing down into on of the metal creature's hives and taking some pictures of the processes they breed by.
Amos himself had never before bothered to ask why the metal creatures seemed to lack genders, but a heap of money getting involved was enough to jump-start his interest now.
Solemnly and with a sacrilegious feeling in his gut, Amos belatedly continued his way along the dirty plains, towards the gritty ruined city on the horizon.
With growing frequency, he encountered the arid foundations of buildings that no longer existed, eerily resembling vast stone blueprints in an obscure capacity. Soon enough, they were all around him, dictating the walls of a vast invisible labyrinth. Only the superstructure of a few obscure buildings still stood, built of something resembling bronze.
The more time he spend walking it's forgotten reaches, the more Amos became paranoid of the ghosts surely lurking in the caverns below. What great sin had been commuted here, that had made the lands abound so desolate for so long? What unholy things had they been communing with to create such foul monsters?
The toadstool-esk central structure was titanic despite being stripped to it's bones, big enough to swallow most of the largest living towns he had been to alone. He wondered how much it even resembled it's original, new appearance. Of something as simple as that, there were no records at all. How the concept of etching their ideas down in stone had apparently been alien to the powerful forgotten folk, now that was an enigma.
...But it wasn't the offworlder's concern. It had been three weeks since Amos had agreed to the deal, and he worried that he was not the only person that the offer was made towards.
It was immensely dangerous, and unfathomably stupid to trust such an ambitious corporate dog, but the find of money and influence that such connections would offer is something that a grizzled caveman like himself couldn't afford to ignore.
Only problem was, now he was completely out of food and ammunition. Surviving the machine beasts was one thing, but having to risk encountering the Akadish enforcers on his escape shortcut, now that was something else.
On his fifth hour within city grounds he encountered something resembling a hexagonal sinkhole at the base of a great hollow cylinder, with large flat panels of stone collapsed at all sides like dropped playing cards. Being a decent twenty meters in span, the deepest reaches of the hole were out of alignment with the sun and appeared to be like a crawling flow of black water to his imagination.
His senses made sure there were no foul deities in pursuit of him, before he unfurled his many-hooked climbing rope and began to make the decent.
Unlike the terrain above, there was vast quantities of hot, clinging moisture within the burrow. His baked flesh stank to high paradises, but that was nothing compared to the nauseating fumes hitting his nostrils from the sour air below. His scarf did little to stem the tide.
Anxiously, he continued to lumber downwards, eventually cracking to life a flare rod when his footholds started to become dangerously slippy. The passage remained strangely symmetrical and clean cut, every now and then showing signs of an old rusted-out machine or erosion-eaten exit tube. The moisture got worse the further he headed down, but fortunately there was a conjoining tube close enough for him to swing over to several dozen minutes down the line. It smelt only slightly better, and appeared to be exactly the same width and height, except arranged horizontally.
Far off in the shade, he heard the squirming of a large, chitinous beast. Probably alone, as the big ones were generally quite rarely pack types. Somehow, he didn't think his club would be enough to combat it, regardless, and he began to consider dousing his torch just to remain safe.
“Shit. Guess I'll just have to try blinding it...” Amos made a hoarse whisper, trying to give himself a little confidence by feying human interaction.
As the pipe continued, it rapidly began to bow under it's own weight, fragments of rusted re-bar jutting out of broken concrete chunks like burnt twigs. The moisture didn't let up, and a faintly heated breeze ruffled his clothes from ahead.
Soon, an expanse. As far as he could tell, the room was equally hexagonal as the descending pipe, but this section was so wide that his tiny lamp couldn't begin to penetrate it. Spiraling around the edges, masonry lumps extruded from the walls. If they were supposed to support a more stable walkway, it had probably been made of metal.
Anxiously, he continued to climb downwards. There was an infrequent distant scrape of chitin on stone, and the occasional hissing blare of monsters breathing in exertion. This had to be a hive or breeding ground. The location was perfect, and there was a high quantity of activity for such a comparatively small enclosure.
Overwhelming panic writhed around in his gut, it was true. But he hadn't come all this way for nothing. Briskly, he removed half his remaining stockpile of flare rods with one hand, and a mauled little photocapture cartridge with the other.
The spread flares fell quickly like twirling meteors, then clanked around within dark, curling shapes at the bottom. Dull surprise rippled through the man-size creature larvae, their forms resembling oversized legless beatles. They backed off and made small circles around the flares, possessing neither inquisitiveness nor fear, just apparent distaste. As planned, they didn't see him as enough of a threat to bother coming after him, barely even registering that there was something above them. It was perfectly possible they couldn't see at all, he supposed.
Just viable in the glare beneath, Amos spotted strange patterns on the floor, like triads of bulging glass orbs, each big enough to fit a large dog inside. Around them, rounded panel lines cut into the stone which easily could have been decorative in nature.
Making a repeating hollow ticking noise, the photocapture device recorded everything he saw. The reel was soon spent, and breathing a muted sigh of relief, Amos tucked it back into his inside pocket for safe keeping. Time to leave.
Carefully avoiding any added noise, he crept back along the exposed supports and reentered the tunnel he had came in from.
His stance was, if anything, more cautious now, but his footsteps seemed all the louder upon the broken granite shards, now that his presence was known.
The increasing shade at the end of the tunnel told him that the sunlight was leaving him behind. Keeping an eye at his back, he quickened his pace. It was quiet. No signs of pursuit at all. The reeking mess of the surface tunnel was a sight for his sore eyes. He could almost taste all the fine dining and molten women that his capture card was worth, now...
Stretching out his torch out into the gloom of the vertical tunnel, Amos looked around briskly for his climbing robe. 'Where has it gone?' He considered irately, taking another quick look down the crumbling passage behind him.
Agitatedly, he looked upwards and held his lamp adjacent...
To be met with a massive, bulbous mass of orange eyes. The thing was twice as big in span as his pack mule had been, jet black in coloration and perfectly comfortable clinging to the vertical wall with it's six gigantic, cruelly barbed talons. The hardest part to look at was the face, made from hairy jagged jaw panels and gooey gelatinous compound sensory organs, practically floating around a meaty core with the tiniest of supports.
Making a noise half resembling a croak and half resembling vomiting, it remained totally motionless. Again, the sound repeated, horrid tone reproduced perfectly. A third time. And a fourth.
Then, Amos suddenly realized what it wanted. If it was hungry, he'd be dead. No, it wanted accountability. It wanted to know who he was, and why he was there.
“Sorry for disturbing your nest... I'll be going now.” Amos responded sheepishly, feeling a fool for even trying. It made a new sound, with a higher arcing pitch. Regardless if it understood, the formidable bug still as yet remained stationary.
The original croak-vomit noise, repeated.
“I can't speak that.” Amos objected. Almost mechanically, it looped the rejection noise, then the query. Amos paused for a moment, then attempted to return back to the tunnel.
The black insect shifted it's position with nightmarish reaction timing, arcing it's head inside of the opening. Pausing again just as Amos had done, it again parroted the noise.
'How long can I keep this up before it figures me out?' He considered. If he was going to make a move, it had to been soon.
Slowly, he removed four of his remaining flares from his jacket. No reaction.
In unison, he lit all of them at the same time, tossed them forward, and ran as fast as his legs could carry him back down the twisted corridor. Without eyelids to protect it from the glare, it barked in pain and shambled about violently for a few seconds, before belatedly giving chase.
Amos swore repeatedly, hauling himself forward despite his yet unrested limbs. If they caught him it would be instant death, no way around it. He had chosen this life and had no regrets. But damned if he wasn't going to cling onto this grim existence for as long as possible.
When he got back to the strange breeding chamber, the momentum of his pace damn near carried him off the edge. His flares were still lit at the bottom, but the writhing mass of larvae had all vanished. Not breaking step, he spiraled his way across to the next adjacent exit. It was a short corridor, leading to an empty chamber quite similar to the one he had climbed down through. The insect behind him was gaining ground now, and he could hear the commotion of more approaching.
Surely, there had to be more than one exit. Or at the very least, a route to a deeper part of the complexes where the bugs did not dwell.
A third breeding chamber, but this one was smaller and had no support prongs. Using his momentum, Amos leapt across to a lower conduit and hit the ground with a roll.
Something nicked the flesh of his face on the floor, but he didn't have time to stop and check exactly what. His lungs burned for reprieve, and his throat clogged up with the overwhelming moisture of the pit.
The next room was a bottom floor, and contained large honeycomb panels, intentionally shaped to fit inside the doorways as far as he could tell. Problem was, all the doors but the entrance already had one in place.
Thinking quickly, he used his mace to bend a panel next to the door sideways. The bug was right upon him at full throttle. He desperately kicked the stone forward, and it slammed down onto the monster's head with considerable force. Not enough to kill it, through. Not nearly enough.
Looking around in panic, he had no other option but to leap onto it's back, crawl over it and try to come back the way he came.
He took a back seat to his actions, no longer feeling the urges of his body or the crushing urge to keep focused. The lucid gray-black blur before his eyes felt like another reality.
He didn't feel the same paranoia before his leap back over the small pit. He didn't even feel fear upon seeing the creature at the other side.
Something hit him in the chest with the force of a gunshot, and he tumbled backwards. The ground seemed to run out below him whilst he attempted to scramble back to his feet.
The pit swallowed him whole. He could see the faint silhouette of the hexagonal entryways flying upwards before him. The crooked hole struck him in the back first, then the ribcage, then the left leg. After that, his mind was condensed with such a heavy fog that there was little distinction between thoughts and actuality.
I'll cut it here for the sake of brevity. There are two more complete chapters in actuality, with the aforementioned 'monster bro' getting introduced in the next.
Hope somebody actually likes this. :/