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LINE: Wings

Summary

After his village gets attacked by a group of machines Ethan decides to join LINE, a organisation founded to protect humanity from these machines and find a way to leave the Bird Cage. After most humans left the Earth many years prior the Cage became the last fortress of humanity, but it still holds many mysteries.

Prologue

The rattling of the coffee machine interrupted my short sleep and I got up to get the cup from the kitchen. I took a short look at my television, that was standing on a small cupboard in my living room. There was a reporter, who was commentating a live broadcast of a space center. She must not have made it too, I thought and took a sip from the hot coffee. There had been many rumors about a last secret effort by the government, to save humanity from extinction. Over the last ten years, the condition of the Earth has been getting worse and worse. Many natural disasters made some continents uninhabitable. America and Europe were the last places where human life was possible. It was two months ago, when the government announced their plan to launch a part of humanity to space. I don’t know how many people got chosen to leave, but I know that I wasn't one of them. The remaining people were left to die on earth, that is what we thought at least. The public was left in the dark about how bad our situation really was and some even thought, that the spaceships would return for them. I went to the door that was leading on my balcony and opened it. The cold night air was making me shiver. In the far I could make out the shape of a gigantic spaceship. It was brightly lit and even from the far I saw movement all around it. After two minutes I went back inside and looked at the television screen again. On the bottom left was a timer counting down the time left until the spaceships would take off. “And in only thirty minutes it is time. Let’s wish them luck,” the reporter said smiling into the camera. I couldn’t hold back a short laugh. This was the most fake smile I had ever seen. I was about to sit down, when my phone rang. It was a message from Mike, one of my best friends and the one who provided me with insider information about the governments plans. ‘You have to meet me, it is important.’ ‘Why aren’t you on the spaceship?’ I wrote back. It took him a few seconds to answer. ‘I was tasked with a more important task. Don’t ask questions now, I will tell you when you get here.’ He included a set of coordinates, which would lead me to his position. I was taking my jacket from one of the chairs and hurried to my car. If he was writing me now, something must have gone wrong. The streets were deserted. I didn’t meet a single person on my way to the street, the coordinates were leading me too. The lanterns on the side of the road were flickering, and I was able to hear the distant sound of the spaceship engines. “Finally, you are here,” Mikes voice was coming from a dark corner. “I thought you would be there,” I said and pointed to the spaceship. Mikes face was distorted by a strange smile. He mustn’t have slept much for the last days, because I could see rings under his eyes. “Would be nice, but I am going to kick the bucket like all of you,” he said and began to giggle. “But before that,” he continued in a serious voice “I have to ask you a favour.” “What is it about?” I asked. “You two, come here,” Mike said and looked to the corner he had come from. There were two persons appearing from the shadow. It was a boy and a girl around the age of seventeen. They both had unnatural white hair. The boy was wearing black clothes and the girl was dressed in white. I couldn’t point with my finger at it, but something was strange about the two. “I am pleased to meet you. My name is Nial,” the boy said and bowed down in front of me. “Cut it out Nial. You are being strange again,” the girl said and Nial rose his head again. “By the way, my name is Nora,” she added and held out her hand for me to shake it. My confusion must have been obvious, because Mike continued to explain the situation. “I want you to bring them to New York City, as fast as you can,” he said and waited for a reaction. “But they are...” I began, but was interrupted by Nora. “I know that some of us may have made a bad impression on you, but we aren’t all like this. I can promise that our father has trained us well and that we won’t make any problems.” “Why did you choose me for this job?” I asked Mike. “I needed someone I could trust and you are my friend. Also you are damn lucky to get this chance.” “Why?” I asked again. “There is something about this project, that I didn’t tell you. The ones flying with the spaceships aren’t the only ones who will survive this.” “There was a second project started to protect humanity and our father was directly involved with it,” Nial said, but stopped talking due to a mean look by Nora. A loud noise in the distance signaled the start of another engine. “Get in the car!” Mike told Nial and Nora. “Aren’t you coming with us?” I asked Mike. “No I have to see this through until the end,” he said and started walking away from the car. “We will see us again,” I shouted after him and started the car. A few minutes later we were driving on a road at the side of a mountain. We had a great view of the space station. The spaceship was slowly moving towards the sky. It was an incredible sight and all of us were watching the bright lights rising up. “Father said, that there wasn’t much time to build these things,” Nial said as the ship reached the flying height of a normal plane. “Do you think they will make it?” I asked them. “No,” they said at the same time and only a second later a massive explosion brightened the night sky. The once proud spaceship was nothing more than a molten piece of metal.

Smoke

A bird can only be truly happy, if he is free and I believe it is the same with humans. Cage them, and they get desperate, after time they will even die. The world we are living in is such a place. We call it the Bird Cage. I don't know who came up with the name, but it is a fitting title. Rumors say, that the Bird Cage is one of the last remnants of the old world. Before the war with the machine, humanity has been a far developed civilization, but they were forced to leave Earth. Now we are trapped inside the cage, with no idea how to escape it. I was sitting on top of a tower, watching over the trees. It was night and so my eyes could barely see anything further away than the lamps that were standing at the walls. Calling it a wall was an exaggeration. It was nothing more, than wooden fences. The village I was living in was one of the weakest parts of the defense against machines and had to suffer from many attacks. It had been only a week since the last attack that took the lives of two soldiers. My eyes were tired of watching the outside and every time I was breathing a cloud of smoke was forming a cloud over my head. I turned up the collar of my coat and pulled my hood over my head. The sound of steps was pulling me from my thoughts and a second later a young man opened the door. It was Marcus, one of the men assigned to keep watch at night. “Hey Ethan, it is my turn now,” he said and entered the room. “Finally, I thought my shift would never end,” I responded and stretched my body. “Have you seen anything interesting?” he asked me and I shook my head. He sighed and sat down next to me. “You can go now. I will survive the night,” he said and I got up. The door was leading me to a narrow staircase and I slowly walked it down. The only sound I could hear now was the distant rustling of leaves from the forest near the village. My way led me through small streets. I could hear voices coming from some houses. Our village didn't have the fanciest houses inside the cage, but they all had an inviting look to them. Most of them were sending clouds of smoke into the air and their windows were brightly lit. I stopped in front of my house and took the key out of my pocket. The air that came from the inside was warming my cold face. I was turning on a lamp and entered the narrow hallway. On the right side there was a door leading into a small living room, where my feet were carrying me now. I threw my coat on a chair and lay down on the sofa. My arms and legs were still stiff from the cold. I closed my eyes and it didn't take long for me to fall asleep. A painful scream made me wake up. I noticed the smell of smoke and was on high alert. I covered my face with my t-shirt to protect me from the fumes. My sight was affected by the smoke, but I could still make out the door at the other side of the room. I lay down on the floor and crawled in direction of the door. My eyes were hurting and my vision got blurry. When my hands finally touched the door, I opened it just a little. Nothing happened and I continued my way through the door. The hallway was full of smoke too, but I didn't see any flames. The fire must be in one of the adjoining buildings. An enormous explosion pushed me to the ground and I got hit with stones. I could feel blood running down my face and the back of my head. My sight got blurry again, but I saw that the blast had destroyed the front wall. On the street outside I saw the cause of the destruction. It was a three-meter tall robot. It had a humanoid form. The machine held a spear in one hand and a shield in the other. The head that was formed like a helmet was looking through the room. Was it searching for survivors? I tried to breath as little as possible to keep my movement at a minimum. My effort was in vain, because the machine took another step inside the room. I was about to panic. Should I just try to run away? How long would it take for me to escape to the street? How long would this thing need to attack me with his spear? How many machines were still waiting outside? I closed my eyes and waited for the strike. Klonk! “Hey, you,” a voice shouted “Phalanx. Look. I am here.” It was the voice of a boy, and he seemed to be standing on the other side of the street. Did he throw a brick at the machine? What an idiot, I thought. “Yeah that is good. Come to me and try to kill me. Good luck with that.” I opened my eyes and noticed that the machine had turned around. “Percy, now,” the boy shouted and a figure jumped on the back of the machine. It noticed him and tried to shake him off. Percy struggled to stay on the back of the machine. “Hannah, we might need your help here,” Percy shouted and I heard an arrow flying through the air. It hit the machines left arm in which he was holding his shield. An explosion ripped the arm off and it was landing only a meter away from me. “Theo, I think we have a survivor. Bring him away from here,” Percy was shouting. It took me a moment from noticing, that he meant me. The boy called Theo was jumping from a roof and sprinted to my side. “Are you okay?” he asked. I could only nod and slowly get up. “Stay close to me, or you will die,” Theo said and was making his way past the giant machine which was making a sound that could be compared to a scream of pain. Theo was vanishing around the corner and I hurried to stay close to him. We ran until we were at a safe distance to the fight. “Follow the road and you will see some soldiers. The area should be cleared,” Theo explained. “Understood,” I said and he turned around. “See you later. Now I have to get the kill on Phalanx,” he said and ran back to the battlefield. I made my way along the road. I saw dead machines laying on the side. When I reached the edge of the forest, I saw a group of survivors. “Ethan. Are you okay?” Marcus walked toward me and supported my walk. “One moment it was silent and suddenly they attacked. We are lucky that these soldiers were around,” he said and led me to a fallen over tree for me to rest on. I was sitting down and while my brain tried to process what just happened everything went black.

Comrades

When I awoke, I got blinded by the sunlight. The rustling of the trees and the distant sounds of voices were calming. My head ached, and I was too weak to move my arms. I was laying on a bed and was wrapped in a blanket. The bed was standing inside of a small tent. I saw a girl that entering the tent. She had long brown hair and a sword hanging from her belt. “Oh, you are awake. That's good. How are you feeling?” she asked. I finally found the strength to sit up. “My head hurts, other than that everything is fine, I guess,” I answered. “That's good to hear. My name is Hannah, Percy said I should bring you to him, can you walk?” she asked and turned to leave. My legs were shaking, but I became used to it, and I was able to follow her. The soldiers had set up camp on top of a hill, that was surrounded by trees. The tents were forming a ring around big campfire, that wasn't burning yet. We were walking towards a tent, slightly bigger than the others. “Oh you are here,” a man in his mid twenties said. He had short black hair and was wearing a gray uniform. “I brought him as fast as I could,” Hannah said. “Ethan, right? My name is Percy,” he said and signaled us to follow him inside. The tent was filled with people, that were standing in groups of four and looked at a map, that was hanging on the wall. The map showed the outlines of the Bird Cage. The southern part of the map was painted blue. It showed the part that we humans controlled. The larger red portion of the map was machine territory, and we had no idea what was going on there. “Hey Percy, can we start already?” someone in the audience asked. “Yes, we are all here,” Percy responded and made his way in front of the people. Hannah and I followed him. I was standing next to a woman around the age of 30. She had short blond hair and was, like all the people in the room, wearing a similar uniform to Percy's. “Hey Ethan, good to see you on your feet again,” a boy to my right said. “My name is Theo, Percy's brother.” I turned around to him and looked in the face of a boy around my age. He had black unkempt hair and his face wore a troubled look. “I should have brought you to the others. I mean yesterday, maybe you wouldn't have collapsed. I am sorry,” he said and looked to the ground. “Don't trouble yourself about that. I am fine,” I said to raise his mood. There was no time for more words, because Percy cleared his throat, to signalize that he was ready to begin. “First, let me thank you all. With your help we were able to finish this recon mission without any casualties. Our investigation of the defensive works, didn't go as planed. As you all know, we had to prevent the machines from breaking through our defense at the last station of the investigation. Fortunately we were able to evacuate the residents to the surrounding settlements. Repairs will begin in the following weeks. Besides this, the Special Unit was able to successfully escort Ethan and will take him to the capital tomorrow.” At these words I began wondering. Who would be ordering me to the capital? I have never even been there. I looked around and caught Theo's look. His eyes told me something like 'we will explain this later.' “Percy, there are bad news. There been machine sightings,” a soldier interrupted Percy's speech entering the tent. “Where?” Percy asked without losing his composure. “At the foot of the hill, they must have sensed our presence. There are around fifty of them. There is also a Champion who controls them. His classification is unknown,” the soldier said struggling for breath. “Their behavior is strange, they don't seem to advance. They are just standing there, waiting,” another soldier who arrived added. “Stay on guard and tell me, if anything happens,” Percy ordered. His voice was filling the whole tent with a feeling of confidence. I had the feeling, that Percy was a born leader. “Every soldier, equip yourselves and be prepared for an attack. The Special Unit stays with me. You can go now,” he said and the tent got emptier. Now it was only Percy, Theo, Hannah and the blond woman inside the tent. “What are we doing now?” Theo asked. “We can't take on fifty of them plus a Champion, with only twenty-five men.” The military was dividing machines into two categories. There were simple soldier units, who they got pretty used to fighting over the years and Champions, who were far more deadly and harder to kill. “We've got no choice, but to fight them,” the blond woman said. “Evelyn is right. We only need a good plan of how to get rid of the Champion,” Percy said and made his way back to the entrance. “Ethan, come with us please,” Hannah said and I followed them outside. On the outside there were soldiers running all around. But it seemed that nobody was panicking. “Hannah and Evelyn are coming with me. Theo, bring Ethan to our tent. We will see you there,” Percy said and followed one of the soldiers who had warned us. “See you later,” the other two said and also left. “Our tent is this way,” Theo said and pointed to one not far away. “Why isn't anyone scared around here,” I asked Theo. “My brother is a good leader. You have heard how he was giving orders inside the tent. There is not a single soldier on this hill who doubts him. Maybe he hasn't got a plan yet, but he will have and it will be a good one.” The moment Theo stopped talking, a sound was interrupting the voices. It was the loud ticking noise and it was occurring once every second.

Soldiers (pt.1) (new)

The bright flames of the campfire were flickering and painted the camp in an orange light. It had been a couple of hours since the clicking had begun. The source of the noise were the machines that still surrounded the hill. They were on constant surveillance, but haven't made a single move. “Do you think, that we have a chance tomorrow?” I asked Hannah, while looking at the fire, that was burning not far away. “We just have to believe in Percy's plan,” she told me, the confidence in her voice wasn't encouraging me one bit. The plan was to escape from the hill at dawn. Our scouts were able to get very close to the machines, without being noticed by them. We would try to sneak through the lines of enemies and get as far away as possible. “I just can't shake off the feeling, that this is a trap. Do we know why they are making this sound?” I asked her. “We think it might have something to do with the Champion they are with,” Theo said and sat down next to Hannah. “Then we have to be extra careful tomorrow, we can't risk getting close to him.” Evelyn made her way to the tent and sat down on a chair. “Could someone explain to me, why you are taking me to the capital?” I asked after a while. I hadn't stopped thinking about it and had no clue who would send out a group of soldiers just to escort me to the capital. “We can't tell you everything, because not even we know the whole story. What we can tell you, is that this task has priority, and we will do everything to get you to the capital,” Evelyn explained. “Can we continue this tomorrow? We should really go to sleep now,” Theo interrupted our talk and entered the tent. “Theo is right, we should at least try to get a few hours of sleep.” Evelyn said and followed him inside. “Aren't you coming inside?” Hannah asked me. “I am coming in a minute.” I said and she closed the entrance to the tent. A moment later I got up and made my way along the tents. I had made a plan. I would leave the camp when everybody was asleep and then make my way through the enemy lines alone. I thought that it would be easier to go alone. Maybe I was being selfish, but this wasn't the place for me to die. I was looking at the trees surrounding us and searched for a path, I could on, without making too much noise. When I finally found one I got up and sneaked over to it. “Where are you going?” a voice asked and I turned around. It was Percy, who was looking at me from a small distance. “I just wanted to take a walk,” I said, but there was no way Percy bought that lie. “Then walk with me,” he said and I decided to follow him. We were walking around the circle of tents, not speaking a word until Percy broke the silence. “You are thinking, that the plan won't work, right? Please be honest.” “I just think, that this is a trap and that they are just waiting for us to escape,” I said. “I am not sure either, but I need to give them some hope. All of them count on my judgment, I know that.” The silence continued, only interrupted by the constant ticking. We were halfway around the camp and I began to shiver. “Tomorrow we are going to form groups of two and you will stay with me,” he said as we reached our tent. “I won't stop you if you want to leave the camp on your own,” he added and his face got serious. “You know?” I asked. “Of course. You acted weird, that is why I talked to you.” he explained. This wasn't a surprise. “Let me be honest with you. I don't think you would survive out there. There are still many enemies beyond the ones downhill.” he said. “But I can't just die here.” I responded. I was getting angry. Was he looking down on me? Maybe he was right. Maybe I didn't have a chance, but there wasn't more time to think about it. “Do you hear that?” Percy asked me and I was looking confused. There wasn't a sound, apart from the surrounding wind. It took me a moment to understand the situation. The ticking, that we heard for the past hours had stopped.