Welcome to the Apocalypse
Book 1- Pandora
by D L Richardson
Genre: Apocalyptic Sci-Fi
Whatever the reason, over 100 people hook up to the mainframe computer with one goal: survive twenty-four hours of an apocalypse. Instead of game over at the end, they're plugged straight into a new game. Then another. It's clear to the players the computer has malfunctioned. What isn't clear is why.
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Jack Minnow grabbed a brochure off the rack and his eyes scanned the back page.
"It says here that rule breakers are ten times more likely to survive an apocalypse. They're adaptable and they rely on cunning and instinct."
Jack was five-foot-eight, and the woman behind the counter, called an operator, was easily six-feet tall. Looking at her was like looking at a marble statue atop a pedestal. All white – her hair, her tight-fitting jump suit, her face, neck, and hands, painted to resemble a computer generated character. He allowed himself to imagine that the stage make-up covered places he couldn't see.
She smiled at him. "It also says that rule breakers are ten times more likely to die within the first hour. They're reckless and often act without thinking."
She pushed a plastic tray towards him, the kind handed out at airports to slip under x-ray machines. Jack dropped his wallet, phone, and car keys into the tray.
"So it's a win/win day for a guy with a superhero complex," he said.
Superman, his mother had called him after he'd brought home a stray dog for the fifth time. "Can't help but save things," she'd told the dog ranger. Even as a boy, Jack knew what happened to the mutts who were handed over to the ranger, but he still brought dogs home for one last night of fun. His superhero complex was the reason he'd entered The Apocalypse Games. Save everyone. Save the world. Nobody dies. Not for real anyway.
The operator removed the tray and he stood there waiting for a voucher. None came. A warning flared up into his brain. What did he really know about this operation?
"Seriously, about those odds," he said. "Exactly how much testing has gone into the program? I mean this is opening day. There must be kinks to iron out."
"We use the same technology as they do at NASA," she said. "The nutrient tubes and mist emitters feeding into the simulation pods are the same as those used in space travel. The structural integrity of the pods was tested by NASA engineers only last week." She tilted her head to the side. "We'll take good care of you, Mr Minnow. I'll see to it personally."
He didn't know her name, or anything else about her, but he felt he could trust her. He had to trust her; he was placing his life in her hands.
She stepped out from behind the counter, slipped her arm through his, and guided him toward a set of doors where he caught flashes of shiny surfaces and bright lights. A sign indicated the room was called The Launch Pad.
"How will you see to it personally?" he asked, dragging his gaze back to her dazzling blue eyes. "Will you be in the game with me?"
She shook her head. Pity. He was sure he'd enjoy cyber-sex.
"You've got a good crowd here for the opening. How many players you reckon? Eighty? Ninety?"
"There are one hundred and five players taking part in today's auspicious event."
Jack's mood sank a little. "Won't it get crowded?"
She placed her other hand on his arm. Others might have found the gesture too friendly, but not him. Attention from a beautiful woman – genuine or as part of a customary service – warmed his insides.
"There are many apocalyptic scenarios on offer," she said. "Some players have chosen to be placed randomly, in which case we'll load them into scenarios that other players haven't pre-selected. It's highly unlikely you'll all be playing the same game." She stopped at a machine similar in size to an ATM and ran a laminated pass across the scanner. "I understand you'll be teaming up with two other players, Reis Anderson and Kelly Lawrence."
"Kelly's my sister," said Jack, not wanting to give the woman the wrong impression. "I'm being a good brother and chaperoning her."
The operator nodded. "Have you chosen an apocalypse to survive? Or will you opt for the random selection?"
"I don't mind surprises, but Kelly's…let's just say she's a novice at this. We've decided to play—"
Her fingers swiftly landed on his lips. "Don't tell me. If I don't know then I can't reveal any spoilers."
She slipped the laminated pass around his neck and continued ushering him toward The Launch Pad. At the doorway, she gently pried her arm away and her azure-blue eyes twinkled.
"I assure you, Mr Minnow. You will be in the greatest of care. Please make your way inside and enjoy your complimentary champagne. It won't be long until you're taken to the simulation pod."
The doubt still niggled at him. "So when we die in the game, what happens?"
She looked off to another player signing up at the desk.
At last she turned around and smiled, revealing dazzling white teeth. "You can't die in the game."
"But it'll feel like it. That's what the brochure says."
"Yes, it will feel like death," she said before walking briskly away.
Welcome to the Apocalypse
Book 2- CyberNexis
THEN... The Apocalypse Games is a state of the art virtual game designed to entertain doomsday preppers, gamers, and cosplayers. But not everyone who entered was there to play the game the way the creators intended. Some players didn't belong at all and some entered the game to escape reality. Whatever the reason, over 100 people were hooked up to the mainframe computer with one goal: survive twenty-four hours of an apocalypse. Instead of game over at the end, they were plugged straight into a new game. Then another. It was clear to the players the computer has malfunctioned. What wasn't clear was why.
NOW...the players find themselves in an offsite facility far from their original location, unsure why or how CyberNexis moved them. Getting out of the game used to be all that mattered. But not anymore. The world has changed and CyberNexis is keeping a secret that needs to be exposed.
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The internet always crashed at home. Without fail, a quick search for a recipe turned into an epic battle, lasting longer than the Napoleonic War. However long that was; Kelly Lawrence didn't actually know because the computer had crashed the day she'd tried to find out.
The cause of her aggravation was not the plastic box and silicone chips that housed the data. The culprit was a non-sentient thing, capable of wreaking more havoc than a sugared-up toddler in a china shop. The culprit was cyber space. Littered with viruses, worms, malwares, and Trojans.
Why had she placed her life in the hands of a something prone to collapse?
Because it was meant to be a game.
It was also meant to be fail proof.
Someone was whispering in her ear. "It's over. You're safe."
No such thing as safe, she told herself, tuning out the voice floating to her from a corridor that could only lead to her darkest nightmares. She'd had enough of nightmares that charged towards her with blind fury, sending fiery sparks that stung like ant bites and always heralded another battle with monsters that wanted her dead.
"She's slipping away," the faraway voice said. "Come on, Kelly. Fight it."
Some people were born fighters. Others learned the skill. But always, even when you won you lost something.
"Stay with me," the voice beckoned. "I'm not gonna lose you."
What was the point of fighting? Pandora was never going to let her go. Yes, they'd given their cybernetic nemesis a name. Over one hundred people had entered simulation pods to escape reality. When it'd gone horribly wrong, it'd made sense to name their enemy after a goddess who'd unleashed hell upon mankind. All they'd had left was hope.
Even that was gone now.
Kelly let the darkness drag her away.
Kelly opened her eyes and was taken aback for a second. Seated opposite her was her late husband, Matt. Her heart lifted a little. He'd found her. Or had she found him? It seemed she recalled, hazily as if under the influence of a drug, that she'd gone in search of him inside the game, and here he was. He looked exactly as she remembered, with his dirty-blond hair that refused to stay out of his eyes, wearing a green shirt that melded to his body with adoration. He'd be almost thirty-one if he was alive. She was on the downhill side of twenty-six. These details should have mattered.
Instead, something akin to fear grew inside her, building the way a tornado does until she knew that whatever was heading her way could only be dangerous. Like a shipwreck survivor adrift in the ocean, Kelly slapped at the surging darkness to grab hold of the faraway voice. It was gone. She was alone with the ghost of her dead husband.
"The pursuit of happiness is a sink," Matt said, stabbing a slice of toast into the runny yoke of a boiled egg. "You fill the bowl with things that make you happy; shopping, drinking, smoking, eating. Whatever. Then you wake up the next morning to discover that the sink has a hole in it and the bowl is empty. What do you do?"
Too tired to take the bait to an argument so old it could only be interpreted with a hieroglyphics manual, she let her shoulders slump. She cast her gaze around the cafe where she and Matt had spent most Sunday mornings. The rustic decor of copper pipes converted into bookshelves, wine barrels made into tables, old jam jars used as drink glasses...these decorative items had once fascinated her. Now they terrified her. Only Matt could have replicated this virtual world. A world that both touched and saddened her heart at the same time, for this world was a glimpse through a window. Memories were all that were on offer in this cafe.
And yet, the past could only haunt a person if they let it, so why was she?
"Kelly?" Matt was scowling at her with a furious look in his eyes. The real Matt only ever scowled in fierce concentration, never in anger. "What do you do?"
"My addled brain sports neither concern nor clue," she said, quoting her dead husband who'd once spent a month talking like a Shakespearean actor while working on a Mediaeval cosplay website. This version stared at her blankly. Proof that he wasn't real.
"I just want to go home," she said.
The moment the words left her mouth she felt the air shift. The cafe faded and in its place was a war zone. Buildings were on fire, guns were being fired, smoke filled her nostrils.
The window beside her smashed, glass flew into the plate of eggs, and someone - no something - jumped through the opening.
There wasn't anything human about this creature. It had matted hair that was encrusted with dirt and blood. It carried knives in both hands and the hide of a deer was wrapped around its back. Bones hung around its neck and when it caught Kelly's gaze, it growled. The spell was broken. Her reflexes sprang into action. She ran out of the cafe.
Whatever happens next, she told herself, just keep running.
The beast matched her pace, running beside her with its wild hair trailing like a horse's mane. It turned its head and smiled, revealing yellow teeth. In her head she heard a voice yelling at her to go left, and so she did. But she ran straight into another creature.
It held a knife above its head. Staring at it, she noticed it was too small to be knife. A syringe! The beast swung the syringe down into her neck.
Except it wasn't a syringe, it was a computer cable.
The author's world is her dog, her husband, coffee, and her writing. Not always in that order. You won't find the usual tropes in D L Richardson's books. You will find unique stories, engaging characters, and thought-provoking situations.
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It’s been a lot of fun researching all the different apocalyptic scenarios for this series. When I began, I didn’t realize there could be so many ways that the future of humanity could be threatened. Some I touched on in this series, others I’ve had to leave for another day and for special chapters. Really, it’s only limited by our imaginations for the fantasy apocalypse such a killer clowns or zombies as featured in the book. And then there are the scientific predictions such as ice age and resource depletion which also feature. Whether scientific or fantasy, the world needs to be built around speculation. What would the sky look like? What plants would survive? Could you drink the water? And each apocalypse would provide a different result. For this post I’ve provided a list of plants that I think would survive most apocalypses and why we’d want them to survive.
This is hardy plant because it's hard to kill. Ask anyone with a lawn. While they call it a weed, dandelion is also a herb, with the above ground parts and root used to make medicine. According to some herbalists, dandelion can be used for loss of appetite, upset stomach, intestinal gas, gallstones, joint pain, muscle aches, eczema, and bruises. It is also used as skin toner, blood tonic, and digestive tonic. In foods, dandelion is used as salad greens, and in soups, wine, and teas. The roasted root is also used as a coffee substitute.
Ivy is also one of those hard to kill plants. It takes over everything if you let it. And during an apocalypse, you might want to let. Uses for ivy could be to provide shelter from the heat and to conceal a trap door with all your food supplies. English ivy also has medicinal properties. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates used ivy to prevent intoxication, reduce swelling, and it was used as an anesthetic. Today, herbalists use it to treat respiratory conditions, such as asthma. Nicholas Culpeper's Complete Herbal book, published in 1652, tells us that ivy was prepared in a wine or as an infusion in water, and was said to help dysentery, jaundice, and intestinal parasites. Leaves and berries were applied to heal infected wounds, burns, and even for ear infections.
Originated in Africa, they can grow into small trees, though they don’t like too much water so these will be hardy for the gardener of the drought apocalypse. It is a versatile home remedy used for treating warts, nausea, corns, and diarrhea.
These plants are drought resistant, need no care whatsoever, and will take over a hillside within a short time. They are often mass planted along highways to stop soil erosion. Their origin is South Africa, and African doctors use them to treat allergies, skin conditions, fever, swelling, impotence, and ulcers.
These tough plants will grow from a cutting. They produce a beautiful flower and the flower is often crushed down to create an essential oil that smells delightful. It grows in any type of soil, can grow in low light but will spread to reach the sun, in full sun will make a bush. Geranium oil rubbed anticlockwise on the stomach is said to relieve stomach pain. It is also reported that snakes do not like geraniums, so handy for keeping your shelter safe. I have loads of these in the garden and they are so hardy and their flowers are pretty.
So what do you think of these plants? Reckon they'd survive any apocalypse. The great thing about these plants is that I have them all in my yard. Knowing what I do now about these plants, I don't think I'll be digging them up from the garden. You never know...
kickoff at The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
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