Entry 0

0.
Rolling over and opening my eyes slowly, what greeted me was those beautiful blue eyes that I fell in love with. Waking up more, the next thing I could see clearly was the round face and I realized that what I saw was her smiling at me. She always had this thing about waking up before me, but not wanting to wake me. I smirked back and grabbed her in my arms holding her tightly. Rolling over and pulling her back on to the bed next to me. My original plan was to try to get us to go back to sleep. But between planting kisses on her lips and then some lightly on her neck as I hugged her that was not happening. She laughed and pretended to fight, saying my facial hair was scratchy. In the end she would happily nuzzle up to me. It never worked out that way  – going back to sleep that is, but the alternative was just as good as more sleep. You know until we had to stop and get up. The memory played out the same way it always did right before…


 

 

Whenever he was near true sleep, he always would be pulled away just as quickly. Eyes flying open in a panic, bolting up to a standing position and the dominant hand flown to the wooden sword near his foot. Steadying the breathing and searching his surroundings, scanning the all he could see. Finding that they were the same as before he closed his eyes. The coarse grass around him, the remnant of his fire still dead, little smoke still breathed out of the extinguished spot. Floating near him, examining him with concern and yet making not any audible question of worry was the robot. Alexi stared up at the machine and loudly sighed and closed his eyes rolling his shoulders. His head sunk low and in silence he reached up to rest his hand against the cool metal of the orb of gears, parts and tech contained in the ball shape. It softly whistled to his touch, the sound was almost concerned in tone. Moments like this Alexi wondered if his preference for machines over people sometimes caused him to find emotion behind their actions when it was really coding.

“It’s alright Echo. I know you were watching and keeping your eye on me. I guess sleep eludes me one more time. How long did I rest though?” He asked roughly, his voice not fully his yet after his attempt of taking winks back from his exhausted state. The robot, Echo, beeped and whistled a few times in response. The first answer was direct, the second set of sounds more an attempt to instruct Alexi in something.

Really? Only 3 hours? Feels like only a few minutes. Great.” He muttered, taking his hand and bringing it up and running it through his hair, pushing it back and behind his ears. It was always long but this was the most shaggy it had ever been. The once vulpine fur like color of it hadn’t faded drastically in his years. Since childhood it always was shades of red/auburn. Now though had more of a straw color tint to it, likely due to being in the sun as much as he had been recently. He momentarily lamented the joy of the red hair that he didn’t care much for in his youth. Many people would tell him growing up that they loved the red. He always accepted the compliments but would make people respect his personal space. He wasn’t one for letting just anyone play with it in his youth. Now he found himself missing the relaxing feel of someone playing with it; brushing it or braiding it while he laid in their lap. How long had it been since the last time he wondered.

Interrupted by Echo, he looked around then back to the companion.

“No I will not try again, we got to cover ground, stay too long and it’ll go badly. We don’t stay too long remember?” He explained, reaching for his things. It was not his originally, he actually found it in a building near where he found Echo. The violet formal vest fit him snugly. He got a tiny sense of pride wearing it, it was probably the finest thing he owned. If we were talking in a more civilized setting. Personal value should obviously outweigh the value placed by others on your clothing. Truthfully though the vest didn’t actually match the rest of his clothing. But luckily he never was one for trying to impress others with fashion. He wore his faded jeans, canvas sneakers and a black tank top. They were comfortable to him, he knew he probably needed a better wardrobe but that meant dealing with things he didn’t feel important. The torso holster containing his revolver was the next thing he grabbed. He strapped the leather fixture around his chest and adjusting the straps before drawing the weapon twirling it in his hand. Tossing it up, allowing it to spin in the air for a moment before reaching out and catching it again, pointing it ahead of him with an outstretched arm. Aiming down the sights and bringing it back close to him only to open the cylinder and examining it. The one bullet remained in it’s chamber- good. Placing it back in the holster, Alexi reached down next for the escrima sticks and their holsters. Strapping the holsters to his lower legs one at a time. Taking care to ensure his legs weren’t too constricted by the bindings before slipping the sticks into their places and fastening them in place.

Returning to his standing position he began looking around again. Echo had remained in a state of surveillance and silence which gave Alexi a bit of a sense of security. Ever since finding the little guy they developed a bond. If the machine was calm and felt all was well – then things usually were. Except when they weren’t. But that wasn’t too often. He then grabbed his duster, throwing it on and adjusting it over his outfit. The duster was another borrowed article of clothing he’d acquired. He had taken it off one of the desert rangers he came across in his travels. Regrettably the Ranger wouldn’t need it, he was sadly strewn to a tree with a knife through the neck. Thankfully no blood stained the coat. That would have given it not only carry a weight he didn’t need but a reputation he may be into the business of killing. Which he wasn’t. The coat was one of those long, medium weighted dusters. You know the ones everyone thinks about when they think of those horse riding, silly hat wearing men. The back of the coat under the collar had a zipper which contained a hood. Something which Alexi enjoyed having, allowed him the joy of hiding under it when he traveled. If people didn’t see too much of his face it allowed less interaction when he did come across other people.

Satisfied with how it sat on him, the man turned back to the tree he was previously resting against. He grabbed the satchel backpack and tossed it over a shoulder to rest at his side. Then played with the strap as well before opening it and checking. “Alright. Five bullets for the revolver, check. First aid kit, solar power charger for the phone, good. A small bag of money,” Hopefully it’d be enough where ever he went next. “and of course the bottle of scotch- good all there. Well mostly there. Scotch is half full, should look into refilling this before long, can’t run out of it like I did the rum.” He noted to himself as he resealed the pack and looked to the swords at his feet. The wooden one- a deep cherry red, his primarily choice if he had to fight and then the sheathed one. Not wooden but an actual sword- the weapon that signified a warrior willing to end life. Except this weapon could do no such thing. For it had no edges. The parts of the blade where sharpness and finely sharpened metal should be- instead was dulled. Inability to cut down another man, instead only capable of being hit senseless if struck with. Alexi had never actually drawn upon it for he had no wish to use it.

He grabbed his swords next. Placing the sheathed blade on his back and the wooded one he held in hand and resting it on his shoulder. Turning to Echo who still remained patiently for their friend.
“You ready to get goin?” Alexi asked reaching into his pocket. Grabbing the earbuds placing them in his ears, and then turning the phone on to pick a song. Smirking as it started up and replacing the phone in his jeans before trudging off followed in tow by the Robot. Echo could pick up the music emanating from the headphones and was swaying in the air to the beat gleefully whistling in tune to the song.

As they disappeared into the mist of the early morning that coated the woods, the remains of the campsite was disturbed. There was crunching of grass underfoot and the shuffling of clothing moving against the morning breeze. Stopping short of the now long dead fire, Alexi’s pursuer knelt down. Touching the kindling and felt warmth determining how long it had been out. Lifting it’s hand and smelling it, detecting what was burned and how much of the scent was simply ash and carbon. They opened their coat and took from inside of it’s confines what looked like a gun, but it was not one for bullets. No this one had another purpose, one of detection not harm.

The figure scanned the area, breathing in the surroundings silently. Their face timeless but obscured due to the hood they wore. Looking left to right before moving forward, crushing the carbon remains of the fire underfoot releasing embers into the air. They raised their arm outstretched toward the sky, aiming a device in their hand and pulled on it’s trigger. A plume of smoke came out around the barrel accompanied not by a bang, but a pop, into the air shot an emerald flare. Soaring high and arcing in the wind, as it faded from sight. The figure walked onward- in the opposite direction the flare fell. They knew that Alexi always traveled downwind to avoid being followed by wildlife made it simple to track him.

The flare caught Echo’s attention. Whirling around and making a loud alarmed series of beeps. The first few unheard by Alexi due to the music of his headphones. Finally some of the noise go through causing him to spin on his heel and saw the Emerald streaking through the sky, fear gripping his heart. Impossible he thought.

Echo, let’s go! Hurry!” He exclaimed and broke into a sprint with his companion hovering quickly behind him. How could he have been tracked so quickly? How did this happen, he was careful. No matter, all he had to do now- was survive and lose the Tracker, whoever- or whatever- they were.
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Entry 7

As long as you only have passion you’ll never see change. You must enact somehow that passion into the world you live in. If you can’t or are otherwise prevented from acting in the way that will make change do what you can to channel your passion to inspire those who can and will make the change you wish and know needs to be done. Sometimes it takes the passion of you to inspire the person behind you to make all the changes you want but never knew how to do, so keep the fire burning and let it warm you, let it brighten your world for those come into it will be allowed to see all that you need one day.


Alexi was still feeling the after effect of his encounter with the Anubia. It had been an entire day and his body was still tense, his heart rate still jumped when sounds crept up on him. Everything about his mind felt fractured. Echo had done their best to assure him that scans showed they were safe, Shade had even tried to prove it by sniffing around and detecting nothing.

“One got behind us like that, for all we know they are stalking us still Echo.” Alexi explained. His eyes scanning his surroundings. The whirl sound response came off as a bit rude. The accusations that their scans were wrong hurt Echo’s feelings. Alexi heard and realized what he said. “Sorry buddy, I’m just…I’ve never felt so scared before.” Echo beeped accepting the apology, hovering near their friend but quickly spun when a faint sound filled the air. All three looked around for the source of the sound and found it too quickly. It had been a while but they returned. The Emerald flares, screaming in the sky and marking the return of Alexi’s stalker.

“Great, time we head out it seems!” Alexi groaned, picking up his pack and grabbing the revolver out of his holster and breaking into a run with the other two in pursuit. A small part of Alexi wondered why didn’t they stay and fight or even head toward the flares, but the rest of his mind reminded itself why- the first time they did, a while back, before meeting Echo, they nearly died.

~~~

It was in a ruined city, one near the small area Alexi had found Echo by accident, the Emerald Flares filled the air and along with them was the sounds of gunfire. The sounds of gunfire echoing off the remains of buildings long destroyed, hanging together by the sheer spite of time. Not many would know who was fighting on the outside, but in the city it was obviously something personal. You didn’t engage in firearm combat in cities like this one, at least not unless you were inviting trouble.

Alexi jumped over the remains of a truck and took cover as ricocheting bullets hit the vehicle he used as cover.

“I swear, I stumble into a city, don’t even do anything yet. Then I get attacked! What the ever loving hell?” His voice rang while he reloaded his revolver. On the ground at his feet were two more pistols, unloaded clips between his feet near them. Finishing the one gun reloading he returns it to his holster and picked up one the pistols, grabbing a clip from his backpack and reloading and doing the same to the other. The shots coming at him ceased for a moment, so he counted to three and got to his feet, turning for a moment to look around behind the truck. Not seeing anyone right away his eyes peered harder trying to find any edge of someone’s body while they hid. A shadow, anything. Nothing though.

He prepared to turn and run but then he heard it, a crack and then the sound of something breaking and falling from above, bringing both pistols up to bare opening fire at the source of the sound, his shots hitting their mark, the body falling from it’s perch above in a window. Landing with a loud thud he ran to it. Examining it. A rifle clutched in it’s hands, the body was flayed it seemed. The redness of muscle instead of skin.

“What the fuck!?” He exclaimed. A shot rang out from somewhere and nearly hit him, “Oh well, no time to figure it out!” He added, grabbing the rifle and checking the ammo it had left. “Alright 5 shots. Good enough. Time to go!” Turning to run he hurtled over the truck again and then down the street dodging shots as they came for him.

Finding a building that wasn’t sealed up, Alexi rushed in and found cover.

“Sure, leave home. It’ll be great! You had to go and be a petty dipshit, you and your girlfriend get into a small spat, and because you didn’t like what she said you decide to pack your shit and travel outside the safe zone. She is too good for your dumb ass.” He scolds himself under his breath. His focus changing when he heard voices. Speaking in a language he couldn’t understand but he knew orders when he heard them. Whoever pursued him was near, and they were gonna find him if he didn’t act fast. Looking around he tried to find anything. It was then he found a container nearby.

“I mean…not like I have any better options.” He reluctantly sighed, rolling to it, checking to see if it was full and seeing the dial, it was. He looked out the door he ran in through and noticed a few of those pursuers standing there looking around for him. He cranked the nozzle beneath the dial all the way and hefted it before hurtling it hard as he could, watching as it landed near the others. Their reaction was instantly to turn and examine it, while their backs were to him, he quickly stood and aimed his pistol, closing his eyes and squeezing the trigger he fired. The resulting explosion threw him through the building, slamming him hard into a back wall and dropping to the floor. Above him debris impaled itself into that wall. If he were awake at the time he’d probably have made some joke about how that could have turned him into cheese but instead the explosion had knocked him out.

Leaving him there unconscious for a few hours. His head stung and his whole body ached when he came to.

“Ugh, never…doing that, again. Explosions not a good idea.” He grunted. “Good thing I can still hear myself speak so hearing’s not ruined.” He continued. “Jaw hurts a bit but can still move it.” Slowly getting to his feet, his shoulders felt heavy as if he ran a marathon. “Damn, I seriously must have hit that wall,” he began turning to see it, seeing all the impaled debris, his eyes widened. “…fuck. How did I not die?” Deciding to not think too long on it, he gathered his things and slowly moved outside, he found the crater from where he shot the canister making the explosion originally. No signs of the bodies that he probably burned to a crisp though. His eyes scanned the surroundings, ears listening to for any sounds of ambush, nothing.

He barely took a few steps into the street before he saw it.

“Run Wanderer! Run before your fate catches you. Emerald fire lights the skies to mark the herald of your demise. Return to where you sinned!” Written in something crimson, Alexi hoped not blood but he didn’t want to exactly find out. Who wrote this, when did they? Was he the Wanderer it referred to? Sinned? It didn’t make sense. His gaze shot to the sky and the green flares had faded but for how long. He shouldn’t have gone to examine them the first time. He should have continued his journey. Those things were trouble and now it looked like he might be wrapped up in it. Tightening his grip on the strap for his backpack he turned and started walking. He didn’t know where he’d go but anywhere but this city. Maybe the next town over would be better.

~~~

Entry 6

6

Heroes can fall, devils can be redeemed. No one is fully good nor fully evil. Actions determine alignment but only just barely, intention speaks as loudly as action when viewed in hindsight. Change can’t be stopped, no more than stopping the suns from setting. Sometimes though, someone will walk not only toward the abyss, but dive right in, causing the Abyss to release someone who was trapped in there prior and wished to not be there in the first place. There must always be balance. Even if it’s because of a sea of Grays instead of black evenly distributed among white.


Echo had stopped short and startled Shade who sniffed the air and released a low growl. Alexi looked around, confused by the reactions. A hand near his revolver just in case, hoping he wouldn’t need it, but the gut feeling churning told him otherwise.

“What? What is it?” He whispered. Echo quietly beeped. The machine lowered itself to hide near Shade’s feet while Alexi moved slightly forward for a better look.

They stood tall, no doubt because of the canine like lower legs they were designed with, sleek gun metal black were those legs, feet adorned with claws, one extending up like a bird of prey’s. Hooked so that when it dug into it’s victim it would not be easily removed. The body- unsure if organic or synthetic, didn’t matter, the power of the legs was obvious due to the way they carried the owner. Each step was cautious but as the foot touched earth it impacted with calculated forethought. Outrunning these was a choice not many should contemplate, granted neither was fighting them. Fighting probably was worse. Once you got to their torso you wouldn’t miss it, a body fully built for stealth, speed and precise striking. These creatures were feared and admired by all who knew of them. Designed in Pre World era by people who wished to use them as enforcers, world changers and otherwise intimidating soldiers without weakness.

Their profile was gracefully designed and arched, long ears sticking straight up from their heads. Gracing them a nickname among those who somehow knew but had not fallen by them. Anubia. Named after some creature that would watch after the dead, protect tombs and roamed ruins of long abandoned human settlements. These however were not some creature like their namesake. They were efficient snipers, and practiced hunters. Working in groups but just as deadly alone. Their secondary and third sets of eyes were used to measure the wind, distance to any target, earth curve and projectile arcs all this while the primary eyes locked and focus on their targets. Behind the ears long bundle of braid designed cable tails were built in to act as a counter balance and as a tool interface with other machines they got their claws on. Quiet, reserved, wandering Dead Zones for any who foolishly wander into their kill boxes.

The one thing that Alexi remembered about the stories was people describing their sound. The Anubia barked but not like any wolf, dog or creature he had heard. No it was described to be a blood freezing, spine tingling, hair raising and sweat inducing scream. It could pierce the thickest armor and send the bravest warriors into terror if by itself. If in groups however, anyone hearing it knew a reaper was on their way to collect the soul who stumbled into that nest of devils. Alexi spotted on their hips hung kukri blades, from his guess two hung- one on each side. The blades were not normally practiced by many let alone mastered by less. On each back was strapped a sniper rifle, obviously custom made, no scopes. With the eyes they had- a scope would be overkill and simply a waste. Too much weight to carry unnecessarily.

The heads were a chrome finish with the accenting marks along it’s snout, jaw and above the eyes colored in a rusty red color. Over their torso draped sunset pink poncho like wraps, concealing their chest armor, looked like the same kind most security had back home, thick enough to stop most bullets, light enough to move in, lacking sleeves to allow arm movement. Some spots looked small enough to fit a blade between for a killing strike but with their weapon choices- getting that close was asking for danger. One had it’s jaw agape and Alexi noted that the teeth were a bright shining electric blue on the inside, the outside of them though was a bronze color. Inside the mouth- where the throat would be shone a bright light, it unnerved him as he wondered was it a helmet with a person inside or was this some unworldly being who emitted that light from it’s maw.

“I don’t understand, if I am able to see them, how have they not killed me yet?” Alexi wondered. Echo beeped quietly. “Wait what?” He asked, Echo beeped again, lower this time. The Anubia continued their actions without taking a moment to acknowledge the three who were still crouched and hiding. He reached up and stroked his chin pensively. Trying to figure out how they’d get around these things. Waiting was an option. Fighting wasn’t. Even with the other two with him, there was no way they’d take down all of them. Maybe two if they got lucky, but he wasn’t going to even suggest throwing away their lives for a direct fight. It nagged at him though, why hadn’t they detected him. They were the most dangerous snipers, how did they not pick up on them before he was alerted to their presence? Is it possible they were not as good as rumors said? No not possible, in his experience there was no such thing as luck and that would have been astronomically high level of luck.

Echo, are you somehow jamming their sensors? Or something?” He asks. Echo doesn’t confirm, instead saying their sensors are experiencing static interference. It could be anything though might be affecting the Anubia as well as Echo. The next series of beeps chilled Alexi’s blood in his veins right there.

“So- you hear that they weigh hearts of those who come within their territory?” Alexi inquires. “I am gonna be honest. Not exactly a fan of that idea, I kinda like where my heart rests, don’t need them taking it out to weigh it.” He added. Standing up slowly he prepared to ask Echo to find another way around them or maybe backtrack a bit, wait out these things. A short breeze hit him from behind, too short to be natural. If the area wasn’t so dead quiet he wouldn’t have heard it but he was perhaps experiencing some of that non existent luck. He heard a faint step, just one directly behind him. The next thing he noticed was Echo wasn’t in his peripheral vision anymore. Suddenly he froze, feeling something was behind him. He swallowed hard and closed his eyes, preparing for this to be it. They wouldn’t spare him, they never spared people, all those who went out would never return if they encountered the Anubia.

A few moments feels like eternity when you’re afraid. Fear does the worst things to the mind probably, it changes the perception of reality in ways that a non fear induced mind would not imagine. From the simple we need to talk phrase all the way to suddenly feeling someone standing behind you when you know that someone near by is threatening and able to do you not only harm but could kill you. Alexi felt his heart pounding in his chest, threatening to explode from the pressure. His mind screamed to not open his eyes, but another part of him said that if he was lucky he could get one lucky shot off and take it out, but he ignored it reminding himself that it wasn’t one on one here. He remembered counting five or six when he first spotted them, but if this one crept up on them who knew how many more there were.

A gloved hand reached around him from the left, moving and resting itself on his chest, over his heart. It remained there, Alexi could feel the talon sharp nails on the finger tips touching his chest, probably preparing to rip into him and tear his heart out so to weigh it. It wasn’t expected but probably more so than he realized in the moment but he felt tears running down his cheeks, his breathing had increased and was shallow. His throat tight and burning he wanted to scream in terror, plea for his life, ask for it to end quickly and painlessly, but nothing worked. Echo had not done anything and Shade was silent as well, he wanted to make sure they were ok, if anything happened to them he’d gladly die to avenge them, protect them, buy them a second to run. It didn’t matter though he could do nothing. He never felt like such a coward- was this it? Did death finally catch up with him? Suddenly the noise Anubia made pierced his ears, sending a sharp pain into his head, directly hitting the brain as if it was prying into him and intent on destroying whatever it found inside. The noise was indescribable, every time he thought he could identify what it might sound like it changed.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” Could barely just barely be registered in Alexi’s mind, who was singing it though?

The hand finally released his chest and Alexi remained still, thinking that this had to be it, but it never came. No instead all he heard was footsteps then silence. Echo whirled to life again and nudged him gently causing him to open his eyes, seeing his little friend directly in front of him, whistling in concern. Shade curled up as his feet looking up with the same expression of worry toward her friend. Echo beeps in explanation that the Anubia had departed. Once hearing it Alexi dropped to his knees and then curled up on the ground, his eyes fixating on nothing as he crawled inside his own mind. The experience shook something in him. He was so prepared to die that he felt in a brief moment he actually heard someone saying he deserved it in his head but it couldn’t have been, could it? Had to have just been his anxiety hitting hard at that moment. Suddenly in front of him, gently wafting from the air a feather touched down in front of him. A feather? It made no sense, no birds were in the area, where did it come from?

Entry 5

5

The most painful thing in the universe, far more painful than any abuse, rejection, combat, hell worse than broken hearts- is the reaction you feel when people you care for say that something they normally love about you, they see as dangerous, or is something they fear. Intentionally said or not, the notion shatters the universe you inhabit. Walls are built faster than you can realize. Walls to protect those around you from them. It’s only a matter of time until you disappear completely just to keep them safe.


Sleep is supposed to be a reset, an ability for the body, mind and soul to recover from whatever happened during the previous day so that they are ready for the next one. For Alexi though, sleep meant revisiting all things that kept him up at night. Between fears and nightmares, sleep meant emotional distress because he didn’t get a peaceful reset, he only got another wave of demons to fight- his own.

“I know what you are saying, I just– all I am saying is that- when you project those fears onto me–”

Oh so I’m supposed to just get over it? Alexi- you realize what you’re asking?”

That is not even remotely what I’m saying. I am saying that intentionally done or not- your actions, though entirely justified, have damn consequences, I am simply asking you acknowledge that you know that, I have done stupid shit you know but at least I own up to it.”

You’re over reacting- and being a bit of an ass about it, all I’ve said is that people like that are dangerous, I should have said something else, you’re right, maybe something like they terrify me after what I have gone through growing up. Hows that? Better for you?”

Alexi didn’t respond, his eyes simply became lost, all sound caught in his throat, fighting to escape but his mind held everything back, not because it feared saying the wrong thing, but because it couldn’t formulate any of those sounds into a response. People like that terrified them? People like -him- terrified them. He was one of those people, did she realize that or was it simply something they were trying to convey he was misunderstanding. Why didn’t they say that he terrified them? Were they terrified to tell him? Was he hurting them all this time and their fear muted them to the problem? Anything they were saying now wasn’t reaching him, no Alexi had gone into a different mindset, he wasn’t there, he was inside himself, so far inside that he might have actually forgotten and become auto pilot because the response he finally gave was a simple.

I have to leave, sorry. It’s fine, forget it.”

He awoke panting, sweat in his hair and his body clammy. His heart rate was high and Shade was standing over him, that sad look in her eyes as she nudged him and licked his face, he didn’t notice at first but she was cleaning his tears away. He was crying in his sleep. That memory, he figured by now he’d have been over it. But it still brought him the same numb feeling. He nodded slowly and sat up, motioning that he was ok, but Shade didn’t buy it and instead laid at his side, her head in his lap looking up at him those eyes still sad as he felt. So he began to pet her slowly to assure her he was fine. Echo was looming nearby, not a beep was made, either they were finally accustomed to his sleeping behavior or for once the machine didn’t know how to respond to whatever happened in his sleep. He wanted to say something, to talk about it to them. Hell he wanted to take the weight off his back. But nothing came to him. No words, no indication he wanted to be pried for information. Simply auto pilot behavior. His throat was dry and a bit sore, but he didn’t reach for the water bottle nearby. Took him a minute to notice but he finally noticed that his shoulders and arms were shaking, not a lot but enough to make his body feel almost out of phase, he tried to sit up straight but his back felt heavy.

Shade’s ears perked slightly, but she remained glued to him, it took a minute to realize why, Alexi was humming. He didn’t even notice his own behavior. He was humming a very quiet weak attempt at a love song he knew. It was about state of bliss when everything around you is a source of joy. It was not some long song, instead it was really short, simply. Some people played it with those tiny acoustic guitars. The title wasn’t even in the same language as the lyrics. Humming it caused a tiny pit in his heart which hurt but he didn’t stop because it also filled the rest of him with a bit of hope.

“…press me to your…I’m in a world apart… where roses” he muttered, well more like croaked out. His voice was shot, but after that he returned to humming. After a while though he leaned forward and rested his forehead on Shade’s and whispered thanks.

“Sorry I’m like this.” He added.

He finally rose to his feet, reluctantly. Shade staying near his side, not convinced he was ok but would be near in case he needed her.

Echo, lead the way, Novak said we should investigate the center of The Brink for this Shatter Point stuff. So let’s go.”

Entry 4

4

Funny thing, when you have mental illnesses you know you didn’t ALWAYS have them, like sure they were always there genetically but they were dormant until a certain point, but when you look back on your life you can’t find that point where the dormancy ended, you can’t imagine your life before the illness. What’s more is that every time you think you found it for some reason it doesn’t feel quite right. The best you can do for yourself is find a way to help manage the disease, that way you’re not finding when you were good vs bad. Instead you’ll be working toward a point you’ll be better and not need to worry about what you were before. Always seek help before it’s too late.


Alexi, Echo and Shade had climbed through one building to another, traversing the remains of the city trying to follow wherever Echo was leading them. It’d been a few hours since the explosion and the sun was obscured by swirling dust in the sky. Everything had a reddish brown tint now.

Echo! Where are we heading?” Alexi asks. The machine beeps in response. “Excuse me? What the hell is Shatter Point?” He inquires, once the word is spoken though, Echo freezes. Turning to face Alexi and out of no where a voice speaks from the small machine.

Ah there we go. Alright you’re good now ECHO. Energy Combatant Hover Operator. This is your first test. Stationed in /static/ missile silo under command of /static/. Dr Ezra reporting. All functioning systems show green lights on my end. Alright Echo, how you feeling? You seem good.” The voice was sheepish, maybe a shy scientist. It was hard to tell. All that could be determined was he obviously cared about Echo by the tone of his voice.

EZRA! What did I tell you about those robots! We have given you strict orders to focus on Project Shatter Point, now this foolish endeavor with pesky machines!” Bellowed a shriek, a woman’s voice carried through and made Alexi tense up.

I’m sorry General. I had submitted my findings a few hours ago regarding the project. Shatter Point is dangerous and my findings all conclude the same thing. It’ll cause a cataclysm. At best we’re looking at the equivalent of nuclear Armageddon.

At worst?”

I don’t think we have an accurate comparison other than old Religious end time stories.”

Well it’s a good thing Religion isn’t anything but myths and stories right? If you think best case is Nuclear Armageddon, I presume you best work to make it more manageable, shouldn’t you?” The woman barked before slamming a door- presumably.

Sorry bout that Echo, seems I gotta get back to work. Glad to see you woke up this time though. We’ll work on you when I finish this. Dr. Ezra signing off.”

Echo shook itself as if snapping out of a daydream and whistled confused.

“Seems me saying Shatter Point, activated some memory file you had stored away. Do you remember a Dr. Ezra?” Alexi asks. His head tilting and Shade panting at his side, his hand absentmindedly reached down to pet her. Echo began to respond, at first it was hard to keep up but Alexi did his best.

“So you’re like from before all this? Damn looking good for a couple hundred years old I’ll say.” Echo beeped smugly at the compliment. “But seriously, that’s impressive, you were made to assist soldiers in combat, well that explains a lot about your set up. Granted I think you weren’t finished based on how we’ve seen you in combat, granted that could have been caused by me when I woke you up. I did tinker a bit before hand trying to understand how you work.”

“It’s Pre World tech that grants that metal life if you can even call it that.” The Pursuer interjected, dropping down from above them, a ledge from a destroyed building’s roof hung over them, how he got that close without Echo detecting him was beyond belief. Alexi quickly drew not the wooden sword but the revolver aiming it at the hooded figure. He had one shot in that gun and if he was to take it, he had to decide if he would, it’d have to count. “Really? I’m the first person like you that you see in all this time and you react with attempt of violence? I’m almost insulted.”

“Who are you? What are you doing out here? How have you survived and how did you approach without Echo picking you up on their scanners?” Alexi barks. The hand holding the gun shaking, his other brought up to his back where the sword was sheathed. His eyes focusing on the Pursuer, watching every bit of him that he could waiting for any sign of hostility. He barely noticed Shade dropped into a snarling defensive state next to him and Echo had prepared to fire their multi-tool weapon.

“Parley.” The Pursuer said. The smirk on his face evident behind the hood. His hands raised, the fingerless gloves coating them in a dark leather. Slowly he reached for the hood and dropped it before returning his hands to the sides of his head, raised in surrender. “I evoke Parley which should mean something to you, yes?”

Alexi swallowed back and lifted the revolver back up returning the hammer to safety before replacing it in it’s holster on his chest and relaxing.

“Stand down you two, for now.” He says calming Shade with a hand near her face. “Now answer my questions.”

“I will, but first my terms, as I did call for Parley and all.” The Pursuer replies. “This meeting shall not go violent, from either side. No matter what is discussed no matter what truths are learned and so forth. No violence. We shall remain civilized. For every question I answer you are to answer two of mine. Once satisfied with questions I’ll take my leave and you shall be free to do the same. Do we have an accord?” Alexi sighed and extended his hand nervously. The Pursuer smiled and shook hands before lowering his other and stepping out from the middle of the three and watching Alexi. “Shall we make our selves comfortable? A fire and refreshments perhaps. Just in case we’re here a while after all, no sense in making our legs tired when we could sit.”

Echo, make a fire would ya? I’ll get the refreshment.” Alexi responds, not taking his eyes off the Pursuer while shifting his weight so the satchel slid to his front allowing him to reach in and find the scotch. “Scotch ok? All I got on me right now.”

“Scotch will be fine. Thank you.” Came the almost eerily polite reply. “You travel with no water or food? Only alcohol?”

Echo helps me find food and water daily, to ensure I’m not carrying too much weight and not carrying anything that might attract unwanted attention.”

“I see. You named this machine. As if you were friends with a person instead of a soulless piece of metal, curious.” They asked, it was Shade, not Echo who responded to the insult by snarling until Alexi shook their head at her. After lighting a fire near some place to sit, Echo had lowered itself to hover close to Shade, obviously feeling more safe near the dog than the newcomer. “Did I offend the machine? How is that possible?”

Echo is a conscious entity. Their brain may be digital and not analog but still has a working concept of feelings and knows when being degraded by others.” Alexi explains. Pouring out a glass of the scotch and extending his hand to the Pursuer with it filled. “So I ask if you’d apologize to them.” The request startled the Pursuer who simply looked up in shock after taking the cup of scotch from Alexi’s extended hand.

“I do guess I owe it—them, an apology then. My experience has never shown people like us treating their kind with the same level of respect or equality. I am beside myself with wonder.”

“Life is life. Digital or otherwise.” Alexi explains.

“Is that why you refuse to use that firearm? Or your blade on your back?” The reply came as Alexi sat holding the bottle in his hand and taking a quick sip from it.

“I cherish life yes. But will take it if my life or the life of others is on the line. I try to uphold a balance in the world, it seems that more balance is needed than I imagined. Now about my questions.”

“I know, I promised for every two you answered of mine, I’d answer one of yours. So far you’ve answered two so you get one back. I am out here because I seek something that is rightfully mine and has so far been denied me by The Brink, I hope to claim it as mine finally and return to my home.”

“That’s not cryptic, but I guess it’s a start.” Alexi responds. So I guess I need to answer two more for another huh. Well let’s get this over with.” Taking another swig of the scotch but not taking his eyes off the Pursuer watching them drink the booze as well, waiting for signs of how they handled the alcohol. Unlike him who grimaced now and again at the strength of the liquor this person almost seemed to drink it like it was water. Not phased in the slightest.

“Why have you come to The Brink?” He asks. “Then second question, do you even know what is out here in this dead zone?”

“First of all it wasn’t til recently I knew the name of this place. I simply wandered here from other places. I’ve been traveling for a year. I do not know what’s out here. I had stayed on the outskirts for the majority of my travels, it wasn’t until someone started tracking me and Echo that we moved inward, they kinda forced us deeper into the area. Maybe you’ve come across them. We haven’t seen them, but we only know they send bright green flares into the sky and attract those creatures- sending them after us whenever they are near. I honestly think that they were the one who caused that explosion earlier.”

“Oh so you saw that explosion too, I was wondering if I was the only one who did.” The Pursuer replied. “I’m glad you weren’t in it. I imagine judging by how it looked from where I was- that was a low yield warhead, and thank you for the answers, you get one more. I approached you without detection because I did so while your machine was in that memory loop, if I understand the tech of it’s time correctly- in those moments of playback no other features are active due to preventing excessive power usage. They- for lack of better terminology, become fish in a barrel while in that state.”

“Interesting, glad you seem to know your machines. Though I can’t lie it’s curious you were able to happen upon us that quickly without being detected sooner. Unless of course the radiation from the warhead disrupted most detection. Echo is that possible? Do you need to run a diagnostic?” He turns looking to the machine who beeped a few uncertain noises before whirling quietly and humming. Checking themselves to test the theory.

Excellent, while in that state it’ll buy more time before it realizes who I am. The Pursuer thought to themselves. Best wrap it up and get what I want before it puts everything together.

“You had two more questions so I have four more. I’ll make them quick so we don’t spend too much time dancing around meaningless details.” He says finishing the alcohol in one quick gulp. “Who are you? Where do you come from? Why do you travel all the way from your home and finally why do you travel with that machine?” He asked curtly nodding to Echo, his eyes looking almost malevolent at that point before returning to their peaceful demeanor.

“Uh ok. I am Alexi. That’s it, no need in, as you said, meaningless information. I’m from one of the settlements in the northwestern portion of the continent. There are a few up there but not all are as developed, I am lucky the one I am from was primarily untouched by the time before all this, and simply built upon it’s foundations of Pre World age. It’s not perfect but it’s home. I am traveling all the way out here because well I kind of ran away from home I guess. Which is silly seeing as I’m an adult and adults don’t run away from home that’s something children do. I travel with Echo because shortly after leaving home, I stumbled across him in a building I was scavenging for food and supplies, he was damaged so I picked him up, repaired as best I could and reactivated him. Since then he’s been my friend. I’m happy to have him along for the journey. He led me to here, not intentionally, we wandered all over the place and stumbled upon here somehow during a storm. I think his data storage was being interfered with.”

“Interesting, and you’re right it’s quite childish to runaway. I’d ask why you ran but you answered my four so I am owing you two. Let’s see they were- who am I and how have I survived out here alone. Well short version is they are tied together. I have survived simply because of who I am. Who I am is difficult, but like you did simply. I am Nathan. Nathan Novak. But that’s unimportant for before you wonder I have no history to speak of that concerns you I hope.”

That last part unsettled Alexi and noticed through the corner of his eyes even Shade seemed bothered by the way this conversation was going. He was beginning to wish Echo wasn’t running that diagnostic because of things got bad, he didn’t wanna fight around protecting Echo. Just in case. He had to keep this going until Novak left or Echo woke up.

“So those were my questions, I guess. I presume you don’t have anymore for me or?” He let the statement hang, gauging the response to figure out where to take things.

“I think I’m quite good actually. I appreciate our peaceful discussion, you can imagine with how wild these lands are why I hoped you’d prefer it of course. No need to taint information seeking with threat of violence right?” Nathan stood slowly, offering the cup back to Alexi who joined the standing man, taking the cup back and setting it where he sat, next to the booze.

“I do understand, apologies for the reaction to your arrival. Assume you understand why now. With being pursued by someone, and after that explosion earlier you know. We were a bit on edge and nervous.”

“Apologies accepted Alexi. I considered not approaching but the machine’s recorded memory intrigued me about who you three were. May we part here as friends then.”

“If not friends than at least not enemies.” The reply came almost automatically. Alexi watched as Novak did a half bow and walked off. Before too far Alexi found himself asking. “Haven’t heard of anything called Shatter Point have you? In your travels that is. Sorry for breaking the 2 questions for 1 rule and all but figured I’d ask before you go. I forgot all about it, ya know?”

Novak froze for a moment. This was it, the answer would determine what his intent was for interrupting them earlier. Novak didn’t move, save for a hand going to his chin, stroking it in thought.

“Shatter Point. Hmm, Shatter. Point. Not that I actively know, unless of course the Machine might be referring to- and this is just a thought. I have heard rumors of a location far in the center of The Brink, It’s told to be something beyond understanding. I never heard what the place was called but it might be worth a lookie loo?” Novak responded, not even turning. “Careful though. If what I know of this place is an indication and I’ve been here quite a while. The inhabitants don’t exactly like visitors, if you’ve already encountered some you know what mean. The ones on the outskirts are nothing. The further in you go- the more dangerous things are. It’s called The Brink for a reason. We’re on the edge of our world here. Step wrong we fall into the abyss of death. I wish you safe travels. Alexi.”

Entry 3

3

Understanding people is…hard for me. Not because I don’t understand humanity. No, I don’t understand when people interact with me. Humanity is simple, and easy to grasp. It’s when a person does something that I fail to observe yet and am able to pick up on them doing other things to other people. It’s almost like a static barrier exists around me and I can’t pick up anything directed at me except negative things. I’m always told that I’m hyper self aware of myself to the point it’s not a good thing sometimes, but yet also I’m told that I’m one of the most naive/oblivious people they know. Hearing you say that it’s not a bad thing brings a bit of comfort because it’s you saying it, which isn’t probably good, placing that much faith in one person huh?


Echo’s noises and Shade’s barking brought Alexi back to the world of the living. He didn’t sleep that night, instead simple rested as best he could against the wall in a sitting position. Echo was making a flurry of beeps, asking if they should remain on guard duty so that Alexi could try sleeping, and Shade stared up at Alexi as he got his bearings.

“Will you stop worrying if I sleep for a few hours?” He asked, Echo nodding it’s body without wasting a second. “Fine, if I don’t wake up on my own in two hours, wake me. Ok?” He grumbled. Laying down, his back to the wall near him and his head resting on his duster which was bundled up in a pillow like lump. Shade tilted her head and then moved to lay on him, protectively. Echo hovered over him, in scanning mode spinning one of the antennae on it’s body keeping tabs to make sure no life signs tried approaching to surprise them. He drifted off to a restless sleep quickly.

The Pursuer walked calmly along the outskirts of what obviously was a reclaimed city. The Brink had no qualms of having nature take back the lands in it’s boundaries, what were once bustling lively thriving cities, now graveyards to a long begotten past. They filled the Pursuer with a sense of glee, there was something so satisfying about how a once proud display of man’s avarice to touch the sky came crashing down. Where years ago this place would have been loud, cramped and always running full of souls going here and there, many angry for not being somewhere on time due to something trivial, now echoes from any and all minor sounds cascading off the moss covered cracked walls. The shards of glass littering some streets due to buildings near by having the windows that lined all their sides shattering and sending the sharp material down to the ground below.

“History says they fell in line, one at a time ready to play. No time to lose they thought, they had to move. Steadied their weapons, they fired their guns and were in turn blown away. After the fall they didn’t shake it off. Only the Strongest survived. It wasn’t them. It was The Brink.” They said, the voice deeper than normal, almost guttural. “Wanderer, you have entered this place. You were not invited. You were not one of it’s citizens. This place is not for you, yet you persist and continue further in. Shatter Point is not yours nor should you seek it thus. I promise I’ll make The Brink claim you or claim you myself. You’ve gotten this far. For a year you remained on the outskirts, why have you suddenly began traveling inward I wonder?” They climbed a fallen fire escape ladder to the roof of a brick building. Surveying the skyline, taking in all the buildings, the streets littered with remains of vehicles. Along the edge of their eye sight they observed something sticking out of the rubble.

“Oh…that’s promising. Alright Wanderer, let’s see what happens when I wake up this graveyard with one of it’s greatest monsters.” The Pursuer mused leaping down and heading off toward what they discovered, humming an old world tune of honor and glory.

Alexi didn’t realize it had been a few hours of sleep when Echo’s screaming woke him.

“Whoa, I’m up! I’m up! What the fuck?” He exclaimed, jumping to his feet. Shade was over near Echo and the two were watching the outside for some reason. Echo’s sounds persisting in alarm. “Oi! What the hell are you two doing?” That was when he saw it. A bright flash on the far end of the city. Something exploded. Shade and Echo darted away from the window and hid behind and under cover while Alexi didn’t have time, was thrown back to the wall by the shock wave that ran through the city. He felt his back slam hard against the solid surface but then sharp pain as an exposed edge of glass drove into his arm. Screaming in pain he dropped and grabbed at the injured limb rolling behind a toppled desk to examine it. Hoping that was the only explosion while he tended to his injury.

Echo! What was that?!” He called once the noise and ringing in his ears finally stopped. The little robot peaked it’s self over the desk to see him and screeched seeing the blood, bounding hurridly toward Alexi’s belongings and using it’s multi tool to find it. The triumphant whistles echoed louder and the machine returned with the first aid kit being dropped at his feet. “Thanks buddy, I’ve got this, but seriously what was that? What made that explosion?”

The pause was obvious Echo didn’t want to respond, but Alexi’s stare broke the machine’s silence.

“…A what?! There was a tactical warhead in this city?!” How far is the yield?! Are we in the rad radius?” Alexi panicked as he ripped the glass out of his arm, the fear numbing his pain. But he groaned none the less while searching the kit for rubbing alcohol to clean the wound. Echo began to explain what they picked up. “So it was only a few hundred meter radius? If that’s the case why was the shock wave that powerful?” More beeps followed. “All the vehicles on the streets went up generating more…alright, still fucking shit hurt. But we’re good? No Rads?” The beeps confirmed. “Alright, while we travel, I’m gonna need you to keep your rad counter on so we don’t stray into those areas got it? Last thing we need is me gettin cancer.”

Sewing up the wound was not something Alexi was good at, so he simply looked up at Echo, and without saying a word the machine powered up it’s multi tool and quickly singed the wound with it’s laser, cauterizing it.

“I cleaned it all out, and with you sealing it up like that I should be good right?” He asked. Echo’s response sounded almost insulted. Shade however had trotted over and licked at the spot trying to clean it more it seemed. “Thanks girl, I’m sure it’s perfectly clean now thanks to you.” He commented to assure Shade he was okay. Putting everything back into his backpack and grabbing his things getting ready to go, the three quietly left their little hideout and Echo lead the way cautiously, it’s scanners working not only for life signs but radiation now.

Echo, what do you think is gonna happen cause of that warhead?” Alexi asked. After a solemn tone response, Alexi nodded. “Yeah, whoever did it- or whatever- I doubt we’ll see them. I hope.”

The three were not that far from their starting point when from high above them, watching on the roof of another brick building sat the Pursuer, legs dangling off the edge of the building’s roof. Head tilting in curiosity.

“Hmm well that did the trick, got you moving again. But where do you go and why, Wanderer. I track you but I don’t fully understand you. That prop you travel with and that mongrel, do they protect you or you them? Also find it interesting- though injured you carried on. Many would have gotten the bloody nose and gone home. Hmm maybe The Brink isn’t finished with you as I suspected. We’ll soon see.” They puzzled over the thought. On their belt under their coat a device hung, resembling- if barely, a handgun but instead of firing bullets it fired out a signal. One to wake up the devices like the one he had earlier. The more he found the more he’d see if it could influence the Wanderer in where they went.

Entry 2

2

Given the chance to spend all those nights talking again, or take the other choice of just going to bed, I’d never change my choice. Instead I’d try and change what I said. It wasn’t the best, hell it was actually the worst, and I know in my heart part of it was laced with poison, for I did hurt and it wasn’t you who hurt me but that part of me still wanted to hurt someone and that is why I hate myself, because that part exists, I can’t extinguish it. Worse- people tell me that the part doesn’t exist when it’s all I see when I look in the mirror. I’m not a saint, I just try to fight on their side as penance and because I seek forgiveness.


It had been a few days since finding Shade, the three had taken up refuge in the remains of a collapsed building. The building was one of those tall towers at one point, now it was laying on it’s side in the middle of what probably was a road. Inside everything that had been in there was completely thrown about, light fixtures that should have been on a ceiling hung from what is now a wall. The glass that would have been side windows looking out into the city now were a skylight above them. The view above of them was peaceful night skies. Stars littering the black expanse and a quarter moon. It hung low in the sky but illuminated all it could. Finding kindling for a fire tonight was pretty easy seeing as there were so many things remaining in the building from when it was occupied and standing up right. Alexi was just thankful that for the third night no one had shown up on Echo’s scanners. He knew it wouldn’t last but every day it did was a day he cherished.

Echo constantly was on patrol and scanning for threats, a few times stopping only to try telling Alexi to rest. However Alexi couldn’t. A machine wouldn’t understand and he envied it for that reason. Powering down to recharge like Echo wasn’t possible. Humans didn’t completely power down, they instead shut down all non needed systems and the few remaining ones seem to go into overdrive. The mind became far far more active in sleep, even if he didn’t comprehend why. Instead he would sit against a wall, crossed legged and staring at the floor. The disassociation, or depersonalization was frequent for him. Sometimes it’d feel as if he was a stranger inhabiting his own body, not understanding anything about how it worked. Not literally but in the sense of how did this person get to this point, why did they allow all these things to happen, and why wouldn’t they simply fix things. However as time alone grew his disassociation became by mood swings, flashbacks, time loss, lower then normal depressive episodes and panic attacks. Right now he was facing the depressive episode and time loss. Flashbacks were soon to follow, he was getting good at predicting when those would happen. Chalking it up to the simple loss of time around him causing his mind to search for anchors of time, memories, to bring him back to reality. Unaware obviously due to the mind doing it out of survival not malice, but the memories always brought him pain. Shade slept a few feet nearby, huddled in a ball near the fire and breathing slowly and calmly. Thankfully she was still a growing dog, it allowed Alexi to ensure food he never ate wasn’t wasted. Echo would probably panic if it saw that he hadn’t eaten anything and given it all instead to Shade who innocently devoured all the food happily. Knowing he had to eat- simply he didn’t have it in him.

You need to eat!” She chided, pulling him out his meditation. His eyes wandering around the room, slightly confused about what was going on before looking up to her, sheepishly smiling.

I’m simply not hungry, I’m fine I promise.” He tried to reassure her.

What is the last thing you had in the past 24 hours?”

I…” He started but caught himself because he realized he had no idea, nothing was coming to him and obviously lying wasn’t an option.

See! Alexi! What am I gonna do with you? I know you’re not into food like me, it’s fine. But please, eat something, I worry, it’s bad enough you forget to take of yourself sometimes and depression is the cause but please- for me, don’t forget to stay fed…” She wasn’t chiding anymore, she was actually pleading. The worry in her voice surprising him.

…” He remembered saying her name but the memory was mute at that point

Was he forgetting them all? Suddenly panic came rushing to him, he had been gone a while he knew but he couldn’t forget all of them! With shaking hands and a pounding heart that was getting faster and faster he scrambled to grab his phone, pulling it out and finding the voicemails, hitting play on one and tried to regulate his breathing while listening to it.

Hey, it’s me. Kaden called asking if you were ok. I had to tell them what happened. They reasonably freaked out, said they’re gonna ring your neck. If you left because of what we talked about- please don’t be gone too long. I don’t blame you. I promise. I am a bit confused though because you had never seemed so rattled until last night, was what we talked about that difficult for you? I know it sounds nagging but if it was please tell me. I didn’t mean to bring that out that way.”

After it ended he brought the phone back to his lap looking at the screen, the picture of her smiling while squishing his face to hers for the picture and him looking confused was her display image, above it simply Natia. He inhaled hard pushing back the feelings to try and regain his composure. He would beat this, he had to survive.

Looking over and watching Shade, the slow breathing and peaceful sleeping was sweet to watch. For a moment this creature was able to find peace and not be struggling in this place. Ever since he entered this place that people had called The Brink, he was always fighting to survive, not always literally, the place did something to people in it, made them face things deep within. Maybe it was just the solitude though. He couldn’t be sure. Reaching down to his left arm and grabbing one of the hair ties from his wrist he pulled his hair back into a quickly done tail, a few strands here and there not quite being long enough resulting in falling back in front of his face, grabbing the wooden sword off the ground and standing he walked toward an open area and closed his eyes, breathing slowly then began to practice with it, going over the forms he remembered from home.

Meditation was not always sitting on the floor, closing the world out while opening up yourself to the universe. Sometimes it was this- slipping into the naturally flowing forms of a martial art. Giving up self and allowing the spirit to guide your movements as you perform what would look like a dance to others if they were not aware. The body stepping precisely while the weapon- an extension of your arm was guided from one stance to another, blocking unseen attacks to striking invisible targets. Flourishing the blade between steps would have seemed silly but in combat sometimes all that will do is buy you a second because a well placed flourish distracts the enemy, sometimes granting your movement what it needs to put yourself or your weapon when it should be for the next strike.

Shade lifted her head slowly hearing the sound of Alexi practicing, watching curiously, the movements and actions lost on her, but there was no danger so she saw no need to get up and assist him. The animal obviously was not unaware of everything, but she was aware that at the moment her new master needed this time alone, she’d be right there when he returned to sit with her.

Echo had taken a break from patrolling and instead simply increased their scanning abilities to remain in one place, conserving energy. Doing so allowed them to watch Alexi as well. The digital brain of the machine tried to understand the actions. Data in the memory banks couldn’t determine if he was dancing, practicing or having a nervous break down. Seeing as dancing required music of some sort, and Echo could not pick up the music from it’s companion’s device. Practicing seemed likely but to the standards that Echo summarized by studying Alexi since awakening- practice was not needed, he was fairly proficient in combat with his chosen weapons. What practice is he conducting? The nervous breakdown could have been likely as well. The Brink according to Echo’s experience and study was not a place that many could or should be in long term. Not alone anyway. Humans needed other humans. They were social creatures, and here was this one who seemed intent on avoiding any and all of his kind. Maybe the stress was finally reaching a head for him? Echo would ask when Alexi finished whatever it was he was doing. Memory banks determine that humans find it rude to interrupt another when something is happening. Besides, it was not like he was hurting himself or others, this inquiry could wait a few cycles.

Alexi’s mind was less turbulent after practicing, his breathing seemed a bit more regulated and his anxiety was dropping a bit. It wasn’t until he opened his eyes and turned back to the fire he noticed Shade and Echo watching him. Not in a judging manner but simply watching. He hadn’t been watched like that in a while and though he knew it was not anything to worry, he did feel that same embarrassment he felt with Natia would sneak into his practice room and watch him train with that proud smile on her face. He never understood her fascination with watching and always declining when he offered to teach her. Maybe it was just a Natia thing. She always said he was oblivious and would explain it one day. Usually while laughing cause he would get so flustered.

Taking his hair back down and returning the hair tie to his wrist, he slowly crossed the distance from where he was back to the fire next to Shade, sitting in his original spot and petting her.

“How did I look? Probably silly right?” He asked, Shade responded by nuzzling against his petting and inching closer to him, resting her head on his leg and yawning. “Yeah probably was boring compared to our fighting those guys before huh? Sorry.” He looked up to Echo who remained still. “No comments?” He smirked. A few curious tones and beeps came back at him.

“It’s a form of meditation Echo. I do it to refocus everything, help me make sense of some things. When I’m not in the right head space- or not feeling all right up here.” He explains pointing to his head. “See because I am so practiced in that, doing it when stressed is a reset sort of, I am able to do it without thought, without worry of slipping up. It allows me the reminder that I can do something even when everything else seems wrong. Sometimes it takes more than what I did to fix whats wrong, but for now I’m ok.” Echo beeped a few more times, this time seeming concerned. “No! No, Echo, I promise, right now I’m good. I guess I just feel a bit lonely. Not that you guys aren’t great, I love having you two with me. I just miss someone.”

Echo surprised Alexi by rushing toward him and positioning itself under his free arm opposite of Shade and moved in a way like it was trying to nuzzle him like Shade had done. Alexi, taken aback for a moment smiled and closed his eyes before a few tears escaped his eyes beginning the inevitable crying he had been holding back all night. The stinging of his eyes came but he ignored it.

“Thanks you two, I needed this right now.”

Entry 1

1

Meditating was something I did. She didn’t quite understand or subscribe to it but would respect when I was in the middle of it. Can’t blame her. I admit I didn’t believe in the spiritual aspect of it either. I believed in the simple fact I was pausing things; focusing, opening my mind up to other things. I was allowing myself to see more than I had up til that point. Meditating may or may not be a real spiritually but for me, it gave me time I didn’t think I had when anxiety would come for me. I would always come out of it and know that things would eventually be better. If not because of the meditation than because she would assure me. Her optimism was a bit infectious like that.


Alexi and Echo had ran for what felt like hours out of the forest. Once free of the trees they had entered what could only be described as remains of a town. See it was remains of a town because nature not only had reclaimed it, but it was obvious that it was man that abandoned it. Skeletal frames of homes, some only beams. Others still having walls standing were all around, only a few though. Large space between each, made him wonder what it was like back when this place was full of life. The thought connected him to another lifetime for him. He lowered his head, closing his eyes and fighting back memories before shaking his head and inhaling deeply to disperse them. Reaching down to his pocket he checking his phone. It had vibrated a few times while they were running before and he didn’t exactly think of checking then.

Two new missed calls, one text. The first missed call was a number he didn’t have saved or recognize. So he ignored it. Checking the other, he knew the number- it was Kaden. So he hit the play message button and placed the phone to his ear waiting for it to play.
“Ay dipshit! You’re probably still ignoring calls, but hey it’s us, figuring we’d call to check on you. Hopefully you’re not dead! When I renewed the bill for your phone it said you were traveling so I’m presuming it’s cause you’re still out there. But if you’re someone who killed Alexi and stole his phone- let me the fuck know so I can cancel this number!” Obviously the joke wasn’t lost on Alexi who cracked a small smile and shook his head. “Anyway, yeah- we miss you man, we know you gotta do what you gotta do, but traveling out there- by yourself too? We just wish you told us, we all could have came with you. We’re home waiting for you. All of us. So you know- when you’re ready just come home, or hit call once and a while- some of us would die to hear you again. Yak at ya later!” The message ended and it was obvious that calling was not an easy thing for them. The two hadn’t spoken since he left home a year prior.

Next was the text. He knew who had sent it. Took him a bit to read it. Echo nudged at him, seeing the lingering pause on his face while he stared at the phone. The nudge snapped him out of his thousand yard stare and caused him to smile.

“Hey, these are private you know. I don’t go through your mail do I?” Which was met with a few accusatory noises. “Oh yeah cause you are totally private in your love life, you’d not be screaming your vocal box mute over someone who got your wires all crossed like that.” He teased the machine which nudged him again in response. This time more like a headbutt to his shoulder playfully. After laughing at the little machine’s attempt at fake anger he returned his attention to the phone and opened the text.

I know you’re reading all these, and I know you’re only listening to the voice mails. But I don’t see you ignoring them or throwing the phone away so that tells me you’re still there and you’re not giving up on us. I miss you. Come home soon.

With that, he closed the message app and re-locked the phone before replacing it back into his pocket and examining the area.

“What do you think little buddy?” He asked pursing his lips. “Anything around here maybe useful? Anyone you can detect or anything for that matter?” Echo responded, not by noises but instead moved around him in circles. Scanning for anything nearby. moving ahead of their position a bit, near to one of the old homes. Checking behind a few things, after a minute or two the machine started to excitedly beep and bounce in air for Alexi’s attention. So he brought the wooden sword out from his side and kept it ready.

Echo kept bouncing wildly as he approached it and kept motioning ahead of it behind a wall into one of the old homes. There was, upon reaching the floating friend a mess inside awaiting him. His face showing a bit disappointment, he entered and searched.

“What? I don’t see anything.” He asked trying to figure out what got the little guy so excited. He got his answer when something knocked over a chair to the right. Instinctively prepared to fight off something larger than himself, Alexi dropped into a defensive stance. His breathing rigid but his mind racing. What he saw though instantly caused him to make the sourest face before turning to Echo.

“We really need to figure out how you focus on finding things you know that?” He asks returning the wooden blade to his hip and moving across the room. Echo followed behind happily, not even mad that he got scolded. Watching as Alexi knelt down to pet it.

It was a dog, from what he could tell it was a young one still not fully grown but obviously not a pup either. Putting the face of bravery on for the intruders, but the illusion shattered when the hovering machine and man got close enough. Nervously whimpering until Alexi smiled and began petting it behind it’s ears with one hand and put the other out for the animal to sniff him.

“Hey there, you live here don’t ya? Sorry bout coming in without permission. My friend here is a bit excited over you, I am not even sure they’ve seen a puppy, let alone one as pretty as you. You’re a good girl aren’t ya?” He asked very softly, the dog perked up and started to get closer for more pets and attention. “Yeah you’re a good girl, where’s your family?” He asked it, as if expecting an answer. He really was with Echo for a while if he expected all non human life to respond in a way he’d understand. But the canine simply lowered her head. “I’m sorry girl, how bout you come with me then? Better than being alone here huh? You like that idea? Wanna travel with us? I know Echo would love it.” He joked looking over his shoulder to the robot who backed up making a series of beeps. Alexi was convinced they translated to, “WHAT?! I mean….if we have to, I don’t wanna impose her on you…but can we please!?” The smile widened when the animal licked his hand and gave clear parent consent.

The three exited the building, Echo following the puppy excitedly while Alexi watched and laughed to himself. He had started this exile on his own and wound up with these two. He should not have done it but he couldn’t leave Echo where he found them, and let’s be real this little dog would have died if left here. There isn’t anyone around according to Echo’s scanning, he couldn’t leave the innocent thing to die. Besides the two already were becoming great friends. Echo was actually lowering itself to allow the pup to jump and try grabbing onto it attempting to climb on them.

“Alright what to call you though?” Alexi finally asked sitting on the ground after the two played for a while and Echo was done. The dog jumped into his lap and licked at his face. She had a slate colored fur. Black and white stripes along the sides, and her face was covered in black fur. Minus what looked like a white spade, from the playing card suits, marked her nose and eyes and forehead area. Speaking of her eyes Alexi noticed how they were icy and bright as hell. “You got blue eyes like someone else I know, you know that?” He muttered continuing to pet her, playing with the fur as her tag wagged excitedly. “You know I think cause I didn’t realize you were in that room til you popped up, and your coloring I should call you Shade. Do you like that?” He asked smirking. Shade responded by lunging up and licking at his face and panting. “Ok, ok! Shade it is,” Alexi laughed trying to get up. “Come on girl I need to get up now.” She reluctantly got off him and circled around in front of him as he stood. Dusting himself off he glanced over to Echo who had remained still, probably scanning for anything nearby. “What’s wrong? Sense something out there?” He asked. Echo chirped an affirmative. Tensing and feeling the tightness in his throat, Alexi went to ask but Echo answered unasked in a series of low sounds. “How many miles from where we came?” The few beeps came quickly. “Alright so we’re still far enough ahead, still gotta lose em though. Let’s go Shade, we gotta move, Echo, which way?” Alexi asked moving ahead and behind the robot. Shade following and keeping up, her playful nature replaced by a more serious one. She was able to realize her new friends were afraid of something.

The fear was justified. Just as Echo predicted a few miles back, the Tracker was walking toward them. The hood wasn’t on this time and their curly brown hair bounced as they walked. It wasn’t as long as Alexi’s but longer than most men wore it. They had eyes that weren’t malevolent or cruel but instead they were soft and almost kind.

“That’s right Wanderer, wherever you run I will pursue you. No amount of distance you put between you and home will deter me. I will settle the debt you owe.” Came from their lips. Softly, yet the way it was said could still send chills through any of the bravest of warriors. It didn’t carry confidence, instead it carried an ominous certainty, as if they knew as if it was foretold. “Whomever interrupts Shatter Point- becomes the cause of the next one. You foiled things once and now you must become the next Shatter Point.”

Once the figure reached the small town’s remains, they breathed in deeply, taking in all the scents of the area. Picking up a new one.

“Hmm you travel with another now. Before you walked a Lonesome Mile. Then you found that lifeless shell and now–” they inhaled again, “there it is, now you travel with a mangy creature. Your attempt to rekindle companions will not change your fate. I’ll rip all of them away before I take you.”

The flare gun again drawn from within their coat, aimed up at the sky and fired thrice this time. But instead of following, this time the pursuer sat in the middle of all the homes and closed their eyes, meditating. The sky, still blue in the early afternoon, now containing those three Emerald flares.

Alexi’s running slowed as he needed to collect his breath. He whipped his head back and saw all three flares soar into the sky above them, coming from where they found Shade. The dog and robot stopped fast, waiting for him. Until something caused Shade to drop into a defensive stance, growling and barring her teeth. Echo whirled aggressively and one of the micro tools on it’s chassis glowing a light red. Alexi rolled his shoulders and took his wooden sword off his waist, flourishing it, steadying his breathing. Listening to the world around him. Rustling in the bushes and trees around him made focusing hard so he tried again.

Echo how far? Where they coming from and how many?” He asked. Beeping quickly after spinning a few times like a top Echo brought itself back to a ready state. “So it’s only the Scorched Men that are coming right now, alright. Shade stay close, Echo you know what to do right?” Echo moved in a way that looked like it was nodding.

The sound surprised Alexi as from above in a tree, it lunged out. A creature that resembled a man but if you examined it you’d notice it was one that looked flayed. Because it was, parts of it’s body had been so badly burned you could only see burn scar tissue but the rest was burned away only leaving the muscle layers. These things were dressed in haphazardly crafted light armor. Mostly leather and bits of metal covering the torso. The arms and legs had leather padding. The one above him that had leaped out to strike him carried a large sword at least 2 meters long. It seemed crafted from pig iron, you could only tell because of the impurities in the metal were glaringly noticeable. Before Alexi could even swing his sword to protect himself, Echo whirled a battle cry and a fierce red beam shot from it igniting the creature in a blaze. This allowed Alexi to jump back as it landed on the ground howling in pain and rolling around trying to put itself out. Shade and Alexi both returned focus where it had came from, as a few more emerged from the treeline. Shade leaped up and tackled one of them going right for the face and neck, while Alexi rushed the other, barely dodging into a roll to get behind it. Upon returning to his feet swinging the wooded sword down on the foe’s collarbone. Hearing the bone crack, he jumped and swung his leg hard into it’s back sending it dropping to the ground as he landed and looked around to look for any other attackers.

Echo was hurrying over to the other two before it stopped in it’s tracks and back tracked just as fast, screaming out. Alexi had turned and with eyes widening he stared up at a Scorched Man at least 9 feet tall lumbering toward him. Holding what had to have been a street sign at some point, the metal shaft was square and grated with holes, and on the end was a large chunk of concrete.

“Shade, to me!” He shouted as he backed away then ran toward Echo with Shade hurrying in tow. Barking at the giant monstrosity hoping it’d be scared of her. “Echo can ya hit it with another of those blasts, in the face? Like now?” Alexi pleaded. Joining up with Echo, who bounced in air, the multi tool lighting up again as the creature moved toward them. Each slow step taken giving Alexi a bit of anxiety. “Alright buddy I’m gonna buy a few seconds, when you get the shot- take it, just…don’t hit me? I like living ya know?” He orders. Putting the sword down and pulling the two escrima sticks out of their holsters on his lower legs and rushing the creature. He ran up it’s leg using the knee as a step ladder. On his way up he kicked it twice in the torso before striking it several times with the sticks on his way down toward the ground.

Once fully on the ground, he got low, tucking and rolling around the giant and swinging at it’s knees. Hoping to buckle or at least hurt it enough to give Echo time to charge that beam. The creature roared when he struck it’s knees and that was the sign he wanted. Bigger they are- harder they fall. “Echo– go for the face! I got the legs!” He orders. Taking the sticks again and bombarding the Scorched Man’s knees. All while trying to continue avoiding it’s hands trying to grab at him to stop his assault. This continued for a few moments until Shade started barking loudly. Grabbing his attention. Risking it he looked over- Echo had started rushing toward them the multi-tool that bright red again and ready to fire. Alexi figured out why Shade barked- she was trying to warn him. He nodded and sprang up again slapping the face of the monster with both sticks. As he came down he pushed on it’s torso to launch off of and back flip over Echo who stopped just short of the monster and fired the beam directly at it’s face. Melting through the skin and bone killing it instantly.

Panting and replacing the escrima sticks in their holsters, Alexi collapsed onto his back laughing that they survived.

Echo….we good now or are there more?” He asked. The beeps and noises was an all clear sign, so Alexi nodded and closed his eyes catching his breath and letting his body catch up with him. Shade trotted over toward him and nudged him making sure he was ok. “I’m good, don’t worry girl, just resting. You ok? You did great, really showed that dude one for.” He replied patting her and scratching behind her ears. The nervous panting turned to happy tail wagging and a confident bark in response.

The Pursuer awoke from their meditation and scoffed. Rising to their feet and dusting off their jacket, they began walking the direction that Alexi, Shade and Echo traveled earlier that day. All the while muttering a tune that couldn’t be placed but sounded like a funeral dirge. The journey would continue it seemed. As long Alexi ran- the Pursuer would follow.