In This Free To Read Sci-Fi Short Story, The World Burns
In As the World Burns, Toby seeks components fitting for use in the advanced technology that preserves his wife’s vision. Being a scientists and the inventor of most of the existing bionic body parts, Toby rages over the greed that has consumed the benefits of his work. Everything is falling apart. The world burns and bitterness invades the heart. Now, even Toby feels the pressure. Survival of the fitness and of those loved by the fit has become the driving force of nature. Join Toby as this sci-fi short story dips into the mind and adventures of one man in desperate need of the technology that can help him and his wife endure the fallout of a world gone mad.
As The World Burns, a Sci-Fi Short Story
2700 AD – The World Burns
You know that rhetoric about depreciating returns and stuff? Well, that is where we are. Humans, I shake my head. We are always quick to run toward a hope of peace, a place where our self-exalting skill sets do get the blame for messing everything up. That makes it easier to blame others. And that is why my head is bent over my worktable now; it is why I’m wondering if it was wise to contribute my own quota—a very huge one—to the so-called advancement of the human race.
“Honey,” I call.
“Toby, where are you?” a sweet, little voice answered.
The quivering in that voice is part of the reason for my despair. She is my wife of ten years. I met her when she was window-shopping bionic eyes. I couldn’t resist her and I wanted that she could see me too. She was seeking a time-purchase program, but then the wars limited product availability. Credit-based bionic options were no longer available. I wanted to pay then, but also wanted to have her without any sense of responsibility.
We dated. A year passed. I told her I wanted to marry but only after she could see the physical me. At first, she resisted but in the end I paid for new bionic eyes. She already liked what she saw in me mentally and emotionally. In fact, she already knew what I looked like, but I was still happy that she smiled upon actually seeing me in the flesh. We married. Shared a great life. And I always pleasure in the thrill of her green eyes with the tiny crinkles near the edges.
Then someone, an idiot, started a war. Factories were destroyed, lost and buried. Batteries spoil. Bionic body components failed. Humans wasted away. The last of us are living out the curse of mankind. It seems we are content to live this curse only because we are afraid of dying. I fear we are afraid of what lies at the end. Life has the feel of a poorly crafted sci-fi short story; only the short is really the long of it.
“Where are you? I can hardly see.” Margaret’s voice sails through the sorrow and fear that has filled the little container we call home.
I sigh, get up and walk towards her. I pull her to myself, kissing her on the forehead.
“Ah, there you are,” she exclaims, her voice laden with content.
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I imagine her ten years ago—when the craze for bionic body parts was upon us—moving about blindly with her stick, so much beauty clouded beneath a mist of sadness. People learn to live with physical problems. At times they even excel. But to live in blindness when sight is readily available, that weight can break the soul. I cannot let her live that way again.
“Margie,” I coo.
“Toby, you sound like you’re about to do something bad,” she senses.
“No. But I have to go somewhere. I have to find batteries for your eyes.”
Batteries, that is mostly the problem we have. Almost everybody has one bionic body part or the other. My two hands are not flesh anymore; they are hands people would kill to have, especially now. Unlike most people, my body parts are supported by solar batteries; they will only stop working when there is no sun. My wife, along with many others, is not this lucky. So many acquired bionic body parts back when solar batteries were not rife. Ten-year core life was the promise, sometimes even twenty years. Why go with the aggravation of solar when internal battery replacement came due but once a decade? But that was before the battery manufacturing companies were destroyed in the fight. Then the few remaining producers were taken over by those with enough forces to do so. Bloody, selfish fools.
“You will do no such thing,” Margaret said. “It’s dangerous out there. I remember the things we saw. And sometime even now I hear sounds of nearby battle.”
“I can’t bear to see you fumbling during the day.”
“I’ll get used to it, again.”
Her statement pierces the softness of my heart. I don’t want her getting used to anything. I don’t want her getting used to suffering or being blind or not knowing when I am watching. Not on my life.
“You will stay inside here. I have packed enough food to last you while I’m away.”
“Are you deaf, Tobias?” she screams.
“Don’t shout,” I caution, “We could be discovered.”
Those in charge of the battery factories would give anything for her eyes, or my arms, all of which I designed myself. They have their people prowling about, attacking those living alone, like us, pulling their bionic body parts off them and leaving the owners mostly helpless. Maybe I knew this would happen. Perhaps that is why I designed some things into my hands.
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“When I get back, I will have fresh batteries for you,” I reassure.
“I don’t want you to go,” she murmured. Her arms go round me, hugging me tight. I squeeze her tighter in response. I love her more than anything.
“It’s for our good, baby.”
“Toby. I feel like you’re going out to your death because of me.”
“Your good is my good, sweetheart. Who knows what I may find out there?”
“Your death? Bionic thieves? The brotherhood?”
“I can take care of myself,” I reply.
She is not happy, but I must go. I have to. I kiss her deeply, pulling her near, feeling her firm breast against my chest, caressing her full butt cheeks with both hands. The kiss is so deep I feel like I am pinned and held down, but I manage to let go and leave. I have a long journey ahead, and I must begin.
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The World Burns, The Brotherhood
Tobias, that’s what they call me. When the world was sane, I was considered one of the best scientists in bionics. Now, completely cloaked in black, I move through the ruins along the street and wonder where they are, the brotherhood. They have me on their wanted list. And they never stop seeking.
I am prepared for suffering as well as battle. The one requires mental and emotional fortitude. The second requires physical skills and enhanced bionics. Along this journey I expected to see both. And so it has been. Everywhere I spend the night, I see what horrors the brotherhood has wrecked. There are people, some dead, some still living; people missing an arm, a leg and sometimes someone missing their eyes. Many lay where they fail, the batteries stripped from their bionic hearts. Others stumble and drag in search of food and shelter. There is only one word in the mouth of those who still live: help!
But I have my own mission. I already tried the hero buzz. It stinks. Too many suffering families, too many with a knife waiting for an unsuspecting back, and far too much time away from my Margaret.
I run into them, the brotherhood, at the foot of a mountain of scraps. They are three and had been shadowing me for some time. They are brutes, although not all large in size. Brutes are defined by attitude, a look in their eyes and a shiftiness of motions.
“Who are you?” the leader asks. His brow is huge, knotted like Neanderthal. Wide-spaced black eyes mark me as a victim.
“You don’t want to know,” I reply. “Get out of my way.”
“Haha, one with spirit, amidst all these scraps and wastes and deaths.” Perhaps it is the wide cheekbones in his face or maybe just the oversize of his lips, but to me his smirk comes across almost clownish. I plan to cut it off.
“What would you know about spirit,” I snap. Intimidation often rattles enemies, but I do it mostly out of pleasure. Men like these three always wrecking destruction on weaker people. Now it is time they play the losers. In my arms, millions of tiny bullets begin to hum as the inside technology cranks up the heat. It is an automated response to the guns these men wield. “Poor brotherhood fools,” I say, slowly shaking my head from side to side.
“Taking your batteries, now,” the leader says. His eyes bead narrow and his gaze cold. “Just a matter of which way it happens. Either you wait calmly while we pry them off, or you make us do what we love doing, probably kill you in the process.”
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“So it seems,” I said, and feel the rage bubbling beneath my words. So much greed and bitterness in this world. “How about a third option… YOU DIE!”
My hands are free from my clothes and I have them towards their leader. He hears the pop, pop of the bullets long after it is too late. Yet somehow he still manages to block with his own bionic arms. My bullets with my arm directed towards one of the others finds success on his forehead; they enter his head and boil it till it melts down his neck. Another rack of bullets riddle the head of the third man but they bounce off. Iron Head! Messy!
I am forced to jump out of the way as the leader comes around firing into the ground first but quickly moving toward my body. Scrambling to stay ahead of the front of the barrel, I leap headlong into the foot of the mountain of scraps. Iron Head bears down on me, firing as he runs, but I quickly block the bullet with one shield-like scrap that has fallen on me.
“Come on!” the leader yells. “Let’s get finished here.”
I’m sure they have never encountered a problem like me, seeing how unprepared they were. I punch a few buttons fast on my hand and send a little grenade towards Iron Head. The resulting blast reflects him in an eerie glow being thrown into the air, before he slams to the ground, dead. Turning, I clime the ruins fast, my powerful bionic legs moving three times quicker than normal human legs. I hear the leader’s bullets make contact with scraps behind me, coming close but late. I jump off the mountain, turning on air so that I see him clearly, my arms pointed towards him. In his eyes, I see the surprise and the lack of preparedness for death. I gift him that anyway before I reach the ground.
As The World Burns – The Problem Is Greed
I begin picking up signals of battery life some distance from the scrap dumps. I am cautious. It is possible that there are some more of the brotherhood lurking around? No going to be happy that a stranger in black has taken out three of their men, among the best it the show of arrogance was any indication. Well. I changed that for them. There is only blood oozing out of them now.
My instrument sings. I am close. There is a door to an old dilapidated building. I push it open and enter. I am lost for a while. The beeping is louder and madder, but everywhere I look I see walls, a ceiling and a floor. That is until I find a secret door by the side. I find it by mistake because of the way the sun’s rays fall on it through the window, showing that part to be of a different shade than the rest of the wall. I push it in and I almost faint. A factory! A solar-powered production factory!
Cartons of batteries lay on the floor, untouched and unused. In my mind, I see Margie’s sight returning. I also catch an image of the many hurting people along the way. Could help them, I know. Maybe share.
But then I pack what I want before selecting a decent place to hide the remaining batteries. But then my gaze falls upon the battery production machines, dusty and rusty from years of no use but certainly likely to be workable. I know the technology. I have the background and the skill. Would be simple to get this site up and running again. Could help lots of people.
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So much attention. How long before others would come, the brotherhood, the greedy. And when they find the discovery, battles would follow. Too many would come. I would lose, be lynched, and Margie would die back home in the dark.
No way! This is my find, and I am no hero. Let the greedy get by some other way. I’m going back to Margie. If the world burns, it deserves that fait.
The ownership and all rights for this sci-fi short story content, “As The World Burns,” belongs to Rm Harrington. All rights reserved. You do not have permission to copy, alter or distribute this science fiction short story without first getting the express permission of the author.
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