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Image by Devin Kaselnak


Humanity has been reduced to a single city. Dense, choking jungle extends forever on all sides, and twelve outposts serve as the first line of defense against the monstrous denizens of the wilds. Out of all of the stations, however, one stands out as a veritable hell on earth: Outpost Eight.

A grim, mysterious story focused on worldbuilding, suspense, and action. I hope for this to be a long-term project, so check back often for updates.





     Edward woke suddenly to the sound of harsh, metallic screeching, his whole world rocking and rumbling around him as he glanced bleary-eyed at his surroundings. He was in a squat, dimly lit corridor of dark metal plates. Shoddy electric bulbs that hummed in their wire-encased housings barely gave off enough light for him to see the uncomfortable steel seats lining the sides of the train car, somewhat reminiscent of metal pews in a severely ascetic church. The whining scream of metal scraping against metal seemed to be coming from the brakes of the Hearse as it began to decelerate, the rumbling of the armored train still violent and jarring as it lowered its speed and prepared to pull into its destination. Ed settled back down slowly and ran a hand through his close-cropped brown hair, his heart thumping in his chest from the abrupt awakening as the other passengers in the car sat back down as well, each one casting nervous glances about as they realized that they would be reaching the end of the line soon.

     Three days of traveling in the darkened compartments of the Hearse had kept its passengers on edge, all of them itching to disembark no matter what destination may await them when the heavy transport came to a halt. Ed was willing to bet that those aboard would probably change their minds once they arrived at their final destination, but kept his mouth shut and his opinions to himself. He had seen two deaths and four beatings in the time it took to get this far, and would prefer to keep those responsible for the violence from turning their eyes on him. Watching the Hearse’s guards drag the corpses of the two unfortunate casualties out of the car the first night had ensured that Ed stayed far from some of his more barbaric companions.

     Memories of split lips, cracked bones, heavy batons, and merciless kicks to the gut resurfaced as his mind wandered back to the day he had secured his own ticket on the Hearse and to the police who had so kindly handed it down to him. The young man had had quite enough of beatings for one week, the lingering soreness in his muscles and shooting pains in his bones proving an effective deterrent from starting trouble.

     The main culprit for the brawls was a short, balding, heavyset brute of a man by the name of Stubbs, his arms practically covered in crudely inked tattoos with a purplish-black color to them that almost looked like bruises. A harsh, wheezing cough and blackened spittle on his thin lips gave him away as an ex-miner, likely from one of the many coal mines between the City and Outpost Two, and the man practically reeked of cheap alcohol despite spending several days on the Hearse without a drop of booze on him. Edward had recognized him as bad news when they were first boarding the armored train and had planned on keeping his distance from Stubbs for the duration of ride even before he’d watched the thug beat another passenger to death for making a joke about his height. The other lowlifes present had practically cheered as the fight had come to an end, though whether from fear that the short miner would turn his anger on them or out of relief of something to break up the monotony of the train ride was hard to say.

     Stubbs was in the midst of a lengthy rant about how serving at an Outpost was far easier than working in the mines, an opinion Ed could have shared if it hadn’t been for the exact station they were headed for. His older brother had been a miner and he’d seen what life beneath the ground could do to a man, even one as resilient as Tom had been before the blacklung had gotten to him. Slowly choking to death on the layers of coal dust built up inside the lungs was far from the best way Ed could imagine dying, but from the stories he had heard of Outpost Eight, he knew that there were worse ways to go.

     A prolonged silence snapped Ed out of his thoughts as conversation lulled and the train slowed to a stop, the anticipation in the car palpable as the Hearse’s engine went quiet. Even Stubbs had shut up for what Ed could only have guessed was the first time since they had boarded the armored train back at the City, the young man even managing to crack a smile as it dawned on the other criminals in the car that they’d finally arrived at the Outpost. Nervous whispers broke out amongst the gathered convicts as shouts began to ring out on the other side of the Hearse’s steel walls, the locking mechanism on the heavy-duty metal door squealing harshly as the wheel on the other side was turned to unlock it. Edward screwed his eyes shut as bright daylight suddenly flooded in through the slowly opening door, three whole days in the constant dim light of the train taking their toll as his blue eyes took their time adjusting to natural sunlight. Heavy bootsteps rang out only a few feet in front of him as someone boarded the train, and the voice that came from the man was as harsh on Ed’s ears as the light had been on his eyes.

     “Alright you bastards, get moving! Line up outside beside the tracks on the double, and do not make me repeat myself!” the man barked out, his voice low and gravelly as he bellowed his orders out at the stunned men in the train. Ed was one of the first to stand, his legs wobbly from lack of use and buckling beneath him as he staggered out of his seat and into the center row of the car. He felt his boot come down onto somebody’s toe as he tried to avoid falling, a harsh curse quickly being thrown his way before he was roughly shoved back into the aisle he had just left.

     “Out of the way before I break you in half.” Stubbs growled at him as he kicked the younger man in the side for good measure with the foot that hadn’t been trod on, sharp pain immediately flaring out from where the miner’s boot had impacted his body. Ed grunted and wheezed but bore the pain, knowing that retaliation would land him in a worse state than just a few bruised ribs, before he rose to his feet again and made sure he stood more steadily than he had on his first attempt. The officer who had boarded to order the convicts off of the Hearse simply watched him as he passed by, his emotions unreadable as his eyes tracked Edward while he passed by. The last to disembark, Ed squinted again at the brightness of the world outside of the train car as he took in his surroundings.

     Outpost Eight lay deep in the heart of the jungle that covered the surrounding area. Huge trees stretched towards the sky as their boughs spread outwards over the military base situated in a large clearing. Like the other eleven forward bases arranged in a clock-like pattern around the City, a large, circular, concrete wall surrounded the Outpost with walkways built atop the entire ring for soldiers to patrol along. Squat gray buildings were scattered around the area within the walls, the entire place looking more like a penal colony than a military Outpost, which wasn’t exactly far from the truth.

     Sweat had immediately broken out across Edward’s light skin, the thin gray shirt he’d been given to wear after his arrest starting to cling to his flesh from the heat and humidity of the jungle. The other convicts who had lined up alongside the armored train seemed to be in the same state as Ed, sweat stains and wet brows appearing as they looked about at their new surroundings. Soldiers of Outpost Eight had begun to arrive to take a look at the new arrivals, some of them joking and snickering amongst themselves as the fresh meat shuffled around nervously.

     Several of the soldiers stood out to Ed immediately. The first appeared to be some sort of lieutenant to the officer who had boarded the Hearse, a shaved scalp showing the slightest stubble of black hair and a hard, clean-shaven face. He was practically the definition of military discipline, the sort of man you’d see featured in a textbook detailing the brave soldiers who protected the City. A heavy pistol rested on his right hip and his dark green camouflage fatigues were in perfect condition, from the black combat boots on his feet to the properly folded cuffs on his sleeves. He was looking at each newcomer one at a time, his hard gaze seeming to look straight through them before they settled on Ed at the end of the line, a large burn scar appearing on the left side of his face as he turned his head that reached from just under his eye to halfway down his neck. The man was a no-nonsense officer, that much was clear just from looking at him.

     The other soldier was his polar opposite, sitting atop a concrete barricade with a few other soldiers only a few feet away from Edward.. He had shaggy, dirty-blonde hair tied back out of his face and a matching beard that was a good few inches long, both clearly not regulation compared to the other soldiers Ed could see from his spot beside the Hearse. His camouflage jacket was unbuttoned and the sleeves rolled up past his elbows, revealing tanned, leathery skin that matched the complexion of his face. It was difficult for Ed to judge his age, his hair and beard had no touches of grey to them despite his weathered appearance, and his toned build suggested he was still somewhat young and spry. A smile cracked his wrinkled face as Ed met his eyes, a look of both amusement and curiosity behind his green orbs.

     Heavy footsteps on the metal steps of the train car beside Edward drew his attention back to the officer who’d remained on the Hearse for a few minutes after they had all disembarked. In the daylight outside of the train, Ed could make out his features for the first time. Thin, slanted eyes peered out from beneath the dark green officers cap atop his head, marking him as a descendent of one of the few asian families that had made it to the City some hundred years ago. Thin, firm lips curled downwards into a permanent frown, and the heavy scarring across his face and a nose that had clearly been broken a few times proved he was a man who’d seen some action in his career. The slight stubble across his face came through gray but he stood tall and strong despite his apparent age. He seemed to pay no mind to the heat of the day as he slowly walked down the line of fifteen or so new recruits to the Outpost.

     “Paul O'Neill, embezzler.” the officer barked out suddenly as he reached the last man in the line, turning on his heel to face the surprised man. “Tried to leech funds from the City construction budget for yourself, do I have that right?” he growled. The thin, bespectacled man before him started shaking as he nodded quickly in response.

     “Yes… sir. Yes, sir.” he replied quickly, adding the honorific after the officer’s gaze narrowed at him.

     “Grow a pair, soldier. If you find me scary then you won’t last two weeks here.” the scarred officer snapped, giving the other man a glare for a few moments before moving to the next man, the miner who’d caused trouble on the train. “Jeremiah Stubbs, assaulter. Written up four times for drunkenly beating fellow workers before being sentenced to serve here for your fifth mistake. Sound correct?” he shouted, turning his harsh glare onto the brutish man, who stood at least half a foot shorter than the officer did.

     “If that’s what the record says then sure.” he said cockily, glaring right back and meeting the taller man’s steely gaze. Edward cringed internally as Stubbs tried to act tough before the camouflage-clad man, remembering a rumor told to him in high school that one soldier in every new batch sent to the Outposts ends up in the infirmary on their first day. Silence lingered over the group for a few moments, the lieutenant with the burn scar keeping a close eye on the miner. The tension continued to build for a couple of drawn-out seconds where Ed expected the officer to hit the brute, but was surprised instead to see the scarred soldier simply smirk and move to the next man.

     The introductions continued for a few minutes, the officer naming each one of them in turn along with declaring whatever crime it was that had landed them here at Outpost Eight. One by one the convicts agreed with the soldier when asked if he had his facts straight, not one of them daring to talk back to him as Stubbs had done. Finally, after the fourteen others had been named and questioned, the officer stopped in front of Ed.

     “Edward Leone, thief.” he said after eyeing up the youth before him. “Caught red-handed stealing military ration packs from a transport destined for this very base. Funny how it all worked out, since you’ll be eating them here anyway.” he said coldly, his lips shifting into a smile for a few seconds before returning to his permanent scowl.

     “Yes, sir.” Ed replied, keeping his eyes to the ground to avoid meeting the officer’s glare. He did not want to be the one to end up in the infirmary. The man stood there silently for longer than he had stood before the others, perfectly still with his hands clasped behind his back. Ed glanced up after a couple of seconds, finally meeting the other man’s eyes.

     “I was supposed to receive seventeen men today. I only got fifteen. What happened to the other two, Leone?” he asked, his words clipped short and his voice deadly quiet as he questioned the thief, whose eyes widened as he averted his gaze back down to the dirt at his feet. Was he planning on punishing the perpetrator, or was this some sort of test of loyalty and the man already knew Stubbs had killed the others? He glanced down the line of his fellow recruits, hoping to find an answer in one of their faces but finding that all of them had turned their eyes away from him.

     “Well, thief? Where are my soldiers?” the officer asked again, stepping closer to Edward and cracking one finger after another on his right hand, each knuckle popping audibly. His survival instincts screamed at him to do something to prevent the soldier from taking out his punishment on him instead, and the youth forced himself to look back into that hard glare and speak.

     “Stubbs killed them both, sir. Beat them to death on the Hearse.” he said, voice cracking from lack of use as the other recruits beside him began to murmur, the miner himself shooting him a glare that made Ed flinch when he saw it. The scarred man kept his eyes on Ed for a few more tense moments, time seeming to slow down as Ed waited for the officer to either hit him or move away. After what felt like an eternity, the soldier nodded slowly and stalked back down the line of recruits. The thief let out a breath that he hadn’t realized he’d been holding before he raised his head and watched the officer stop in front of the stunty miner for the second time.

     “Hear that, Stubbs? The thief says that you killed two men who belonged to me. We can’t have you taking my men from me, now can we?” he asked, voice still quiet and words still clipped as Stubbs glared right back at him. The officer turned to the lieutenant behind him and waved him over.

     “Varkis, execute this man for murdering my soldiers.”

     Silence rang out across both the line of new recruits and the gathered soldiers, even Stubbs himself looked stunned at the order as the man with the shaved head, who must have been Varkis, stepped forward without a word. Only when he had pulled the heavy pistol from his hip and clicked off the safety did it seem to register to the brutish miner that he was about to die.

     “Hey, wait! The thief’s a liar, I didn’t hurt nobody on that damn train! I didn’t see who did it but it wasn’t me!” he managed to shout, looking down the line at Ed with murder in his eyes. Just like when the officer had questioned Edward, however, nobody would meet Stubbs’ gaze. Rage quickly turned to fear in the miner’s eyes, which then turned into full-on panic as he realized that not one of the other recruits intended to back up his lies. “Believe me, I didn’t do nothing! It was the damn thief who-”

     Stubbs’ sentence was interrupted by the sudden, painfully loud bang that erupted from the end of Varkis’ gun, splattering the miner’s brains against the side of the train and reducing his head to mush as the bullet pinged off of the armor plating of the Hearse. Edward watched in horror as the corpse fell backwards stiffly, landing flat on it’s back as pieces of its skull and gray matter oozed down the side of the black steel plating. The thief dropped to his knees, retching out the remains of the rations they’d been fed that morning on the train as the other recruits beside him struggled to prevent themselves from doing the same.

     “I’m Major Kazehara.” the officer said, his tone the same as it had been before the gruesome public execution of Stubbs. “Welcome to Outpost Eight.”

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