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Earth Fragment on the Horizon ch1

Every year around the world, a great number of people mysteriously go missing without leaving a trace and are never heard or seen from ever again. Amelia Earhart and Spartacus being one of them for example. But the fact that Konomi Satou -a ten year old girl from Shizuoka prefecture Japan- stood triumphantly over the body of a full grown man she had just killed bare handedly was irrelevant. For now at least.

 

In the midst of an unforgiving night, the crashing sound of heavy downpour drowned out the weighty breathing of a man seeking refuge behind a dumpster in a dark and cluttered alley. Sitting down with his back against the building wall, he cradled a lumpy object wrapped in what seemed to be a jacket close to his chest. His hair, including every article of clothing on his back, were soaked down to the insides of the brown dress shoes on his feet. Judging by the way he held onto this lump so tightly, you could tell it was some sort of invaluable possession he had no intention of letting go of whatever the reason. If necessary, he might even resort to fighting to the death as a last resort. The sleek handgun occupying his right hand made that statement clear as glass. A tiny red light near the barrel flashed nonstop like it were signaling information. For several inactive minutes he sat there on the wet alley floor trying to catch his breath desperately, head held back and eyebrows furrowing tightly close in an expression of excruciating pain.

He wasn’t completely alone however. Something else was making him company. Poking out from the bottom of the dampened jacket were two slender, small legs dangling carelessly almost ready to fall out. The only movements they made were slight jerks, a product of the man's uncontrollable heaving for air. Was it a real body perhaps? As soon as he felt his breathing return to normal, the mysterious man turned his attention down to the jacket resting on his lap and slowly his face began to swell up in grief. Though whatever tears he shed were indistinguishable from the rain drops pouring down his cheeks respectively. Still, the face he produced and soft wailing were a testament of that.

As he unfolded the coat slowly with a hesitant right hand, the body of a little girl, ten years old or so, was eventually unwrapped. She was breathing o-so softly, silent and motionless as if in a deep sleep, her belly expanding slowly with each inhale, oblivious to the current situation. “Konomi… Konomi…” A brittle whisper that seemed to be on the verge of collapsing came out from the man’s lips from taking in the sight. His call for a reaction went unanswered and the little girl continued her slumber. The girl cradled over his left arm had hair dyed a deep blue that assimilated with the gloomy night backdrop of the alleyway, and cut short in a bobbed style down to the earlobes. Pale skin an unhealthy white like a corpse, but long, yet vigorous black eyelashes adorned the eyes in contrast to the picture of death she painted.  A handful of hair strands were splayed across the tender child’s face, signaling a rough time. The man sheltering her could only look on in tears as she slept peacefully under his watch.

No more than a second later, a string of barely audible voices came through the rain a couple dozen feet down the corner of where the two rested. The voices were raucous and hasty in tone accompanied by sloshy footsteps breaking over puddles of water, belonging to a group of three to four men. This startled him, making the man jerk up slightly and then shrink into himself reflexively, shielding little Konomi out of danger’s way. “Where’d he go? Didn’t you say you saw him go down this way?”

“Yeah, I’m positive I heard footsteps coming from this direction. The guy should be around here somewhere.”

“Nevermind all that! That freak yanked off my ten millimeter Biter handgun clean off the holster and ran away with it. What am I gonna do if the unit chief sees me without it? I swear… that guy's a dead man the next time I see him! A dead man for sure!”

To which another one responded in an irritated tone. “Shut up Hal! We’re only in this mess because you failed to secure the gait shackles properly and ended up getting your backup gun stolen by a monkey. It’s your fault now that there’s two of them outlanders running around in the city. If word gets out about this we’ll get executed by the bigwigs for sure.” The man hiding beside the dumpster gradually loosened up and readied the gun he had on hand at chest level with a shaky grip. His heart raced like crazy, loud enough to the point where he could hear every beat batting on his eardrums. Anything could happen now and he was ready for it if need be. Fortunately, the group of hostiles were too engrossed in their immature squabble to survey the area efficiently, which in a way gave him a better chance of not getting detected.

“Alright, enough. Too much time’s been wasted arguing when we could’ve been making some progress. Let’s split up and search a one mile radius from where we last saw them. I’ll contact the unit chief and ask for permission to shoot and kill the second anyone receives visual confirmation. We were able to land a shot on him at least, so he couldn’t have gotten far. Let’s look for a blood trail and bring the brat back alive.”

Laying down what seemed to be a mission update, the commanding voice reorganized the group to which the three of them replied with a synchronized “Yes sir!” and promptly traced their steps back, equipment bucking and swaying.

The chanting rain seemed to echo louder now that they were finally gone, and a sense of tranquility settled over the area again.

Peering ever so slightly over the blocky dumpster’s edge, the man in hiding checked to make sure the coast was clear of anyone before making a move that could potentially put him and the girl at risk. It was now or never. After a few seconds of mental preparation and rewrapping the sleeping child in the jacket, he darted out of the murky alleyway in a sluggish manner, almost tripping in the process. Now, only a sizeable pool of fresh blood remained where he sat in hiding and then a trail of droplets originating from the same blood puddle pointed in the direction of their escape.

The injured man lended every bit of strength to his rigid legs in order to put a greater distance between his pursuers and themselves. As a reference, the phrase “one mile radius” uttered by one of the pursuers reverberated in his mind continuously as a way to let him know how far was far enough. But the weather had other plans in mind. The rain had died down to about half its original strength, making it easier to see. However, to make up for that loss was a wind strong enough to enter the skin and caress the bone entirely with a severe and chilling touch. Both hands, feet, ears, and shoulders felt dead numb by this point. He wanted nothing more but to lay down and rest a second time, but if he did, no doubt it would increase their chances of being caught, thus all the effort put into escaping would become meaningless.

Each time he passed under natural light beaming through any crevice between buildings, it revealed a widespread, dark blotch from his left shoulder stretching down all the way to the bottom hem of his white dress shirt.

The streets were arranged in such a way that you’d think you were attempting to find a way out through an elaborate maze of some sort. This is how things were looking for the man since he randomly turned any which corner available without stopping to analyze a proper path that could lead out. Along the way as he trotted aimlessly, the man bothered to peek down at little Konomi wrapped up in a jacket that was most likely his. “Don’t worry sweetheart. Daddy’s gonna take you to someone…”, he cleared his throat in a swallow, “some place safe so they can take a look at your boo-boo on your back and have it cured… ok dear?...” Innocent words uttered with no deeper meaning, but riddled with uncertainty, confusion, doubt, hesitancy, and the list goes on.

This sounded more or less akin to an ascertain not even he would buy, showing it in the form of a nervous chuckle. Naturally, since Konomi (apparently his daughter) was unresponsive at the moment,

Several minutes went by trekking alleys void of life until the man decided his best bet would be to voluntarily reach out by knocking on any random doorstep. He stopped at a peculiar one with a bright, blue neon sign clung over that displayed an unreadable line of letters or characters he’d never seen before. Not one of those resembled any Japanese or English letters as far as he was concerned. It also had a small pad with buttons where a knob would usually be and a thin slit extruded outward like the ones on vending machines for paper money. But he didn’t allow this trivial matter to bother him at the moment. There was a much more relevant topic literally resting in his hands. He desperately knocked on the metallic door for several seconds as hard as he could with his gun-carrying right hand, not stopping for any reason. If the sign above was lit then that meant someone was inside and bound to investigate who was banging on their door so hard.

Finally, a reaction came from the other side. The door calmly opened with a cry and then a voice belonging to that of a woman followed.

“Geez, what’s all this noise so late at night? I said I was coming.” the voice complained annoyingly. A woman in a white lab coat stood in front rubbing one eye. She was asleep up until that moment.

“Ugh, are you serious? It’s raining like hell out here. Hey mister, look. It's passed business hours for me right now. You can come back in a few hours when it’s daytime and then we can-” she didn't get the chance to finish.

The man automatically stretched his arms out, child and all, to her abdomen where the sleepy woman reflexively caught what was handed over. The immediate weight of the ten year old forced her fully awake as she bent at the knees and peeled both eyes open in surprise. Air was ejected out of her lips.

“H-hey! Whaddya think you're doing giving me this stuff all of a sudden?! Creepy old man. Is this some kind of a jo-” This time she interrupted herself. What lay on her hands had a very familiar, almost uncanny size and shape to the touch that couldn't go on being ignored. Curiosity yanked her attention down and she sucked in a gasp at the sight of a young girl, skin color paler than fresh snowfall, less than a foot away. She did not move at all, and the lab coated woman’s expression morphed drastically to trouble.

“Konomi… she's, my daughter…”

“Wha…?”

The man spoke in a hoarse tone covered in brutal coughs and brought the woman's attention back towards him. “I was shot… here on my, my left shoulder.” He signaled toward the injury with the gun he carried.

Immediately, the woman took notice of the large stain covering nearly half the front of his white shirt and her eyes grew large again. “There’s a group of them chasing us. Four to be exact… was shot from behind and... came out this way…” He traced the blood flow from top to bottom again using the gun as he explained what happened, he then made eye contact with her for the first time. The woman donned in lab attire saw a pair of eyes nearly drained of all life looking back behind bangs of blueish hair made a mess. “It’s lodged in her… in her spine.” His gaze went to Konomi and so did the woman’s. She spotted a tiny trail of blood from the door that eventually ended up right under her, or to be more specific, beneath the girl in her arms, Konomi. These miniature clues were all that was left for her to connect the dots. This child was so pale only because she had lost so much blood due to the bullet that had created an exit wound at her father’s shoulder and ended up in her spine. She was most likely being shielded away but unfortunately at the worst possible spot. The woman redirected her focal point over to the gun. Her eyes narrowed slightly to a squint at the lethal weapon that looked utterly out of place in the wrong hands,or better yet, for a soldier in combat gear ready for war instead of a civilian.

“Please, help her… She’s only ten.”

So many thoughts ran through the woman’s head that she didn’t even know where or how to begin asking why. “H-hurry up and get inside already. If you stand out there you’ll just keep getting wet. Not to mention the cold-”

“No… I can’t.”

He halted everything and put forth his left hand to silence her forthwith.

“I left a trail of blood… probably haven’t gone more… more than a mile, I think. They’ll only find us if I stay.” The man began to do move himself in a way that looked painful to him. He erected his back so he could stand tall, dripping wet from every corner, and offered an appreciative smile to the woman who agreed to help. “Take care of Konomi. And please… tell her that I… her dad loves her.”

With that said, the injured man turned a one eighty and limped back out into the mouth of the beast as a strong wind howled down onto the street. The lab coated woman was left speechless once more and could only watch as a heart breaking scene unfolded before her eyes. She didn’t know what to say at a time like this. What kind of gesture or words could possibly be adequate for this situation? She had never seen this man or his daughter before in her life, let alone anticipate such an event happening on her doorstep. But what she did know was that something needed to be said, now or never. Anything was better than nothing. Only if that knot in her throat would allow her thoughts to morph into words. “Be careful!” she called out. “Those people that are chasing you… I… I know them. And they’re dangerous.”

He stopped briefly. Maybe for three seconds or so motionless, as if accepting fate. She wasn’t completely satisfied with her selection of words honestly, knowing she could’ve done a better job at cautioning him or at least changing his mind and it showed on her face as it struggled to stay all in one piece. Thunder shook the night sky and he continued straight, then disappeared completely beneath a thick curtain of falling water. All focus was now on creating a diversion for his daughter while he fought off the four pursuers alone with a single gun that was not his, acting as a sacrifice, a second chance for Konomi.

 

Only the woman in the lab coat knew how much time had passed since that incident. Konomi on the other hand, spent the entire time unconscious and oblivious to what events developed on that fateful day, including what happened to her father. That’s not to say she wasn’t sure of anything.

The overlapping sounds of machinery aroused the tiny thread of life she still had awake, like a voice of aide calling out to her in a dark cave. Except there actually was a voice among the noise of appliances at work. “Wake up Konomi. Wake up…” A soft, feminine, and filtered voice reached out to her, each sound wave brushing against her ear canals in a gentle vibration. “Konomi, Konomi”. Bit by bit her eyes opened and her blurry vision gradually cleared. The world she saw in front of her was dyed a blanched green hue accompanied by an unbearable flashing light hovering overhead where she was. Second thing she noticed was a woman -possibly in her early thirties and owner of that voice- with long, black, unkempt hair eyeing her directly to her right side from just a few feet above. She had on a white lab coat, unbuttoned the whole way, and was bent over with a slim finger up front in what seemed like she was poking at empty air.

Thump, thump, thump.

A dull sound rang out to her ears, and then the green she saw pulsated just barely enough to be seen with the naked eye and so she concluded it was glass the woman was tapping on. “Can you hear me Konomi? If you can, please blink twice so I can be sure that my voice is getting to you.” She blinked back doubly as requested and the woman exhaled a long sigh of relief. “Good grief. I was getting worried that you weren’t gonna wake up even after your vital signs came back to normal levels. Thought I did something wrong along the way that could've hindered the recovery process, but I guess all that distress was for naught in the end, hmmm?”

Unbending herself to regular body posture, the woman in the lab coat showed a reassuring smile and turned around to walk away momentarily.

“Hang on for a sec, m‘kay. I'll be right back and tell you everything you need to know. Now, where did I put the-” The rest of what she said faded into the background noise and became inaudible for Konomi to make out. Things were still a bit obscure and blurry from her point of view, not to mention there was this green colored glass between her and everything else which didn't help at all in that sense. Why would it even be there in the first place? For what plausible reason would glass be absolutely necessary to separate her from the woman in the lab coat?

Konomi wasn't intending to stay put by any means. The mystery of why the glass was there kept tugging at her sensitive threads of curiosity. Until she found out she couldn't move a muscle, that is. “Nmph… ngh…”

She grunted softly with effort as she struggled to lift her right hand on command, but felt no spark of movement where she desired it. “Hngh… rnnh…” Nothing. So she tried moving her left hand instead, same result. Right leg, left leg, abdomen, hips, shoulders, fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, every part of her was unresponsive to the brain signals commanding for any sort of development.

At that moment, she felt an indescribable fear welling up inside and a cold sweat engulfed her face. Her heart began to race suddenly with her breathing rate increasing to match. Small beeping sounds, like that of a warning, abruptly went off all around her and the lady in the lab coat was quick to come back at Konomi’s side. “H-hold on a minute there. What’s gotten into you all of a sudden, huh?” She took out a syringe from the left pocket of her lab coat and walked over to her left side where a few small, clear bags with tubing filled with some type of fluids dangled from a series of hooks. “I thought this might happen once you opened your eyes so I prepared one of these in advance just in case.”

The tubing coming out from those liquid filled bags had tiny ducts poking out with a purple casing over them like a lid to avoid anything going in or out. She uncapped the syringe and proceeded to insert it into one of those ducts and drove its contents into the tubing. The next thing Konomi knew was a flushing sensation that bathed over the entirety of her body in an instant to push out the fear eating away at her. She felt like she had landed on a bed of fluffy clouds or like her own weight had been replaced with that of a feather’s.

Anyhow, the beeping had stopped and Konomi was as relaxed as ever.

“Good. Feels much better doesn’t it?” Konomi didn’t say a word so much as respond with a nonverbal cue, only staying still behind the greenish glass.

The woman half smiled and disposed of the empty syringe nonchalantly. She then took out a small, flat bottle from the lab coat’s right pocket -contents yet unknown- and held them in the same hand while she engaged Konomi.

“Alrighty then, now that we have things under control I guess I’ll start explaining the current situation from where we are now. And just so you know, I'm going straight to the point and not beat around the bush either.” The woman heaved out a sigh and flung a lock of hair behind her shoulder prior to talking, Konomi was all ears. “You're completely paralyzed from the neck down right now thanks to a bullet that got lodged in your spine. You also lost over eighty percent of the blood in your body because of it.”

 

...What?

 

“You were being chased by an armed squadron of men, otherwise known as “The Bringers”. Their mission is simple: abduct people from other planets and bring them here for human experimentation as part of the Genesis Project.