View Full Version : Zynthos-Chapter 2

December 22nd, 2012, 06:56 PM
So here is chapter two, it has a little bit of action and an explanation of the world outside New Dallas.
For chapter one click here (http://www.writingforums.com/fantasy-sci-fi-horror/135203-zynthos-chapter-1-a.html)

Chapter Two

Barracks Dorm 23 Room 7 3:00am March 22nd 2109

Mark found himself waking to a loud knock on the door and yelling. He scrambled out of bed and yanked the door open.

“Whassitgoingon” was all he could manage to say as his eyelids threatened to close.

A man in uniform towered above him in the door way. Mark flipped his room light on and saw that it was Zach Winchell. Zach was the tallest and strongest recruit out of his class. Short black hair topped his head and dark eyes stared down at him in clear disgust.

“You are to report to Captain Grubaugh on deck five in ten minutes,” Zach said. Without waiting for Mark to reply he turned and left.

Mark’s eyes widened and he jumped up in the air smiling. My first mission! He quickly showered and threw his uniform on, almost running out without putting boots on. He grunted as he hopped out the door on one foot, shoving his right boot onto his foot and locking the door when he was out. He checked his watch. Three minutes were all he had left to get to Grubaugh. Crap I just hope I make it in time! He ran at a brisk pace down a back alleyway to save time and pulled out his metal box again. This time he wanted to make sure he’d avoid the merchant’s station.
Using his skate board barely put him in the briefing room in time. He arrived just before Captain Grubaugh, and even held the door open for the tall and slender man. Mark followed and found a chair in the back of the room. The briefing room was dimly lit and had a projector set up next to a small podium that had a data entry screen built into its surface. Grubaugh held up his hands and told everyone to be quiet.

“Now before we begin we have to give our new recruits call signs.’ he said, his hands motioning to the back of the room. Mark looked around and saw Zach sitting to his extreme displeasure next to Victoria. He huffed and turned his attention back to Grubaugh who was explaining the nature of call signs.

“Call signs are what the military uses for names. Once you take one, your name is it. There are no other references for you at all unless you achieve leadership status, which doesn’t happen for a good many years. To give you these call signs we studied your exam results before you got here and determined what yours would be, except for one who we can’t place yet. Anyway let’s start with Victoria.”

Victoria sat up straight; apparently this was what she had been waiting for since she got here this morning. Her scores in every exam and exercise were displayed on the screen. Mark took one look and averaged her scores at about 94 out of 100. He shook his head. Recruits never got scores like that. Usually a normal score was little higher than 80.

“Victoria’s scores were among the highest the Quarem has ever seen. Her overall ability at taking action and determining what to do is balanced with her abilities to lead or follow any unit. She is probably destined to become a field officer, providing that she calms her temper some,” Grubaugh said looking down at her as he said the last part. Victoria beamed as if she hadn’t heard, still looking at her scores.

Grubaugh frowned and continued “Next is Zach. His scores reflected the strongest we have ever seen in the physical department, all the while still maintaining an above average intellect as well.’ he looked at Zach and smiled. ‘It’s nice to have someone who is insanely strong and not an idiot.”
Zach just rolled his eyes. Grubaugh raised his eyebrows and sighed. “And at last we have Mark…who seems to have barely passing scores in exception to physical fitness and intellect. His scores in those sections averaged his other scores to help him pass within the .0001 grade, as you can see them displayed on the screen...”

Mark nearly fell out of his chair as he saw two perfect 100s in intellect and physical fitness.

How is that possible? Nobody has ever got a 100 in more than one category at a time...

“Those scores have to be wrong.” someone said.

Mark glanced up to see it was Victoria standing up.

“As you can see by looking at him-’ she pointed his direction ‘he is certainly not stronger than Zach here, who had 100 in the physical fitness category as well. Although I’m sure he does have the intellect score right, there is just no way had that he got a 100 in the other.”

Others began to murmur their agreement. Grubaugh had to raise his voice to keep the commotion down, while all Mark could do is sit there quiet as a mouse.

“Now everyone just listen! ‘He yelled. ‘Physical fitness does not mean just strength! In certain situations a person’s physical fitness is so well rounded that there is no possible way for them to be stronger, or faster for that matter.”

Victoria cocked her head. “So you’re saying that because he can’t improve physically, he gets a 100?”

“I’m afraid you still are not getting it,’ Grubaugh replied, ‘Because of his size and strength, his speed and agility are perfect. His body is such a combination that to be any more perfect would be inhuman. What I am saying right now is that he could outlast almost anyone in the Quarem on ANY physical task.”

After letting it sink in, Victoria and a few others looked back at Mark. Not knowing what to do, he just smiled and waved.

Victoria turned back to the captain and asked “The intellect score was right?” The captain just nodded as everyone sank back to their seats, still unnerved that someone like him had gotten two perfect scores.

Captain Grubaugh straightened himself. “On to the call signs,’ he said, ‘Victoria, since your overall ability is so awesomely balanced, we name you Xander. Xander is short for Alexander the
Great, who was also balanced for a time before his ambition ruled his other senses. Zach, your call sign will be Herc, short for Hercules, for your brute strength and intellect. Remember that Hercules was not all brawn. He had to find out how to beat the hydra he faced by using his head. Mark, you will receive your call sign directly from Head Chairman Gustav after this briefing. Once he saw your scores he said that you were to be named by him only.”

Huh? Mark screwed up his face in wonder. The captain turned off the projector and started to shoo everyone from the room. Mark got up and walked toward him.

“C-C-Captain?” Mark struggled to get out.

“Just sit here, Gustav is in the next room watching from a hidden camera!’ Grubaugh laughed.

As soon as he said it Gustav burst into the room laughing. “Did you see their faces? They couldn’t believe it!”

What. Is. Going. On.

They both turned to Mark seeing he was confused. Gustav put one hand on Mark’s shoulder.

“Oh don’t worry it’s not a joke! You really did get those scores! It was just great to see everyone else’s reactions! Wow what a treat!” he said.

“So…’ Mark said, ‘what’s my call sign?”

Gustav just laughed, “Well whatever you want it to be my boy! You scored two 100s so I ought to at least let you pick your own call sign! So do you have any in mind? You’ll have to run it by me of course.”

Mark thought for a minute, no names coming to his mind at that instant.

“Do you mind if I think about it over lunch?” Mark asked.

“Not at all," replied Gustav.

Five minutes later Mark found himself back on top of the parking garage from the day before. He sat cross legged and ate his meager lunch of bread and cheese. Breathing slowly he started to chant “Azarath Metrion Zinthos” over and over again. He had learned the chant from Teen Titans member Raven, who used it to calm her senses.

“Azarath Metrion Zinthos, Azarath Metrion Zinthos, Azarath Metrion-” he stopped and his eyes snapped open. He smiled widely and ran back to the briefing room, barely stopping himself in time to open the door.

“Zinthos!’ he yelled, ‘my call sign is Zinthos!”

Gustav considered a moment, and then wrote the name down on a piece of paper. He looked at it for a few seconds and then smiled. He held it up and showed it to him. “Mark this is your new call sign!” On the paper it read ZYNTHOS.

Moron, he spelled it wrong.

Not long afterwards Mark was walking down an extremely busy hallway. It was filled with officers and their charges, marching around like stiff robots. Mark never liked how marching was so rigid. He had endured it for one consecutive month and had no desire to do it again. He skirted the hallway on his right and turned a corner to get to a door in an adjoining hall.

He opened the door and found he was again the last one in the room. This was another briefing room, without the projector. He looked around and saw the same faces he saw earlier in the other room. This time though, everyone was wearing black combat uniforms. Mark found another seat at the back. Heads turned as he passed, all anxious to see what his call sign was. He noted as he passed Zach that he could see a small silver plate on the back of his collar that read HERC. Mark knew his was also on the back of his neck. He quickly sat down on purpose, turning back to the others with a grin. Victoria’s eyes narrowed and she spun back around to the front. Captain Grubaugh had just entered the room, and started to speak.

“Soldiers, today our mission is a simple one. We go to the Waco outpost and check in. Once we are sure everything is secured we board vessel H-143.” he said, his expression turning serious at the end.

Mark sat forward. They were going into space. He took a silent deep breath and turned his attention back to the captain.

“We will be gone for two weeks exactly. Our orders are to search for any available life sustaining planets other than our own. It's standard procedure, really. I think everyone here knows what they are supposed to do. Our new recruits will be closely supervised by me on the bridge. Alright, let’s get up to the helipad and be off.” he finished, picking up a black duffel bag. That’s an awful lot of equipment to take into space…

Grubaugh saw him and several others eyeing the bag. “You never can be too cautious,” he said, leading the way to the helipad. They ascended numerous flights of stairs through a door to the right of the briefing room. Two helicopters awaited them, blades already spinning. Grubaugh signaled to the three recruits to follow him while the others filed into the helicopters Mark guessed they had been assigned to earlier. As soon as they were locked in place with a man on the side gun, the helicopters lifted off.

Mark glanced over at the man on the gun. His call sign was Ripper. Hmm, accurately named I guess… The man turned around and gave him a thumbs up. Mark nodded and smiled. He turned his attention to the landscape below. They passed over four small cities on the way to Waco. Each one had its own measure of chaos that had happened to it back in the incident of 2012. He remembered in his history book the retelling of what had occurred. Everyone had been scared of the end of the world the Mayans and Nostradamus predicted. In the panic that was similar to the Y2K scare terrorists managed to get a hold of a virus. Convinced that the world was going to hell anyway they wanted to get one last laugh at the country that held sway in the world, America. Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York had all been hit with bombs, releasing the virus to millions of people.

Of the virus itself, Mark had no idea what it was about, only that whoever was infected died and did not stay dead. They got back up and feasted on the flesh of their friends and families, showing no mercy to anyone. Within a week the virus spread to other continents. A nuclear bomb was used in China, where there were rumors of the worst outbreak of the virus in the world. The militaries of the world’s governments banded together and built huge walls around cities. These walls were so massive that the walls around New Dallas gave enough room to have four of the old Dallas inside.

As they got closer Mark heard on his headset that the pilot was trying to hail the outpost. There was no answer. The pilot tried again and again. Still no answer. The silence on the other end of the line was beginning to make Mark worry. The pilot glanced at Captain Grubaugh and shook his head. The captain’s face tensed and he turned toward the troops.

“We are going to make a circle around the perimeter of the outpost. We won’t touch down until we know what has happened and why they aren’t responding.” he talked into his receiver.
Victoria nodded and looked at Mark. His eyes were closed and he seemed to be chanting something. She leaned her head closer to listen.

“Azarath Metrion Zinthos,” he repeated again.

She rolled her eyes. Whatever it takes to keep what’s left of your sanity. She looked out the helicopter window and saw the Waco outpost on the horizon, smoke drifting into the sky. As the helicopter drew closer she pulled out her Imagecrafter, zooming in on the screen.

Captain Grubaugh saw the look on her face and reached for the device. She handed it over to him and he looked at the screen. Zombies littered the compound. It looked like it had just happened the night before, as fresh clawed wounds were oozing with blood on the soldier zombies. He handed it back and said something in the ear of the pilot. He turned back to the others.

“Okay,’ he said, ‘the infected have taken over the compound. Our mission has changed, but not by much. We are going to have to split into two teams. Team Alpha will secure the compound and take out all the infected. They are also to stay and occupy the compound until the Quarem sends backup. The pilot just radioed it in; backup will be here in 3 hours. Team Bravo will board the H-143 and continue the mission as planned. Victoria and Zach will join Team Alpha and be under the leadership of Ripper. Mark will join Team Bravo with me and continue the mission.’

Grubaugh looked at Mark, ‘your job is to get the pilot to that H-143 whatever the cost. Follow me and you’ll do fine. Zach, as soon as we land I want you to get a rocket right in the middle of them to give us some breathing room. After that you and Victoria join Ripper and his team in removing all infected. Also remember that on the field you are your call sign.”
Mark could feel his heart pounding in his chest. This was going to be real combat, not just an exercise. He shot a look at Victoria, wondering if she’d use him as a shield again. He shook his head. That was just an exercise; she’d never do that for real. Victoria seemed to catch what he was thinking and smiled wickedly. Better stay away from her just to be sure.

He heard a sudden thundering coming from the helicopters. They had started to bomb open areas of the compound. Ripper started shooting the rail gun. Captain Grubaugh stood up, a look of fierce determination on his face. The helicopters set down on the south side of the compound, where there was nothing but open ground. Mark followed the others and clambered out of the helicopter, hearing “Go, go, GO!” from someone he couldn’t see.

He felt naked for some reason, vulnerable. He attributed it to being outside the city walls, and the feeling passed. He became aware that Captain Grubaugh was running away from him, and he ran after. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Zach on one knee fire a rocket into the midst of a crowd of infected swarming to them. The rocket cleared a perfect hole for Team Bravo to race through as bodies flew into the air. Limbs hit the ground around them, their putrid smell filling his nose. He could tell his adrenaline was pumping because of how everything seemed to slow down.

Team Bravo got through the swarm and headed to the main hanger. It was located to their right, on the other side of the outpost’s mess hall. To his immediate left and right he noticed there were four others on Team Bravo besides the pilot, the captain, and him. They hurried forward and turned a corner. Another four dozen infected were moseying around in between them and the hanger.

Victoria slammed another magazine into her rifle. She took a deep breath as she steadied it against her shoulder. She glanced behind her to check on the progress of a soldier named Chuckles. Chuckles was working on an INF-Mine that had temporarily defected. He used his nimble hands and slid a last metal piece into place and looked up. It was ready.

She turned her attention back to the fight. In front of her was Team Alpha, spread apart in a staggered line. Wave after wave of the infected had kept coming after Bravo left, and as Alpha started to run out of ammo, the waves got closer. Victoria strode up behind a man sporting a mini-gun. His face was twisted into a grimace that she couldn’t tell was disgust or pleasure.

“Sir! INF is ready!” she yelled over the gunshots.

He stopped firing. “About time!” he yelled, “I’m almost out! Alpha! Get ready for INF!” The mini-gun flared back to life again. The infected kept bumbling forward as Chuckles ran up behind Victoria. He handed her the INF and gave her a thumbs up. Looking down she found the rectangular button and pressed it. The mine gave off a loud series of beeps, immediately drawing the attention of the infected.

Victoria ran forward and lobbed it into the dead center of the swarm. The infected scrambled for it, falling over each other like kittens trying to get their mother’s milk. After a couple of seconds the beeping changed to a loud WHOOM and shot into the air about five feet. As it reached its peak a whistling sound hummed, and a thin shockwave of yellow light exploded outward in all directions. All the infected fell to the ground, their heads cut off.

Immediately all fire was ceased. Everything was quiet as a small gust of wind blew around them.

Mark found himself looking in the side window of the mess hall, hoisted up by his fellow soldiers. It had been only moments ago when Grubaugh told him he had to get to the roof of the building and then they would go from there. As he peered into the dark quiet of the room he spotted a few infected among the lunch tables. Some were even sitting down. Maybe they remember some part of their past life... he thought. A grunt sounded from below. He glanced down and saw Grubaugh jab a finger toward the window, his face impatient.
Well...okay then.

He flipped the window latch and the glass pane swung upwards. He wiggled forward into its frame and pushed off his comrades. He slid through amazingly faster than he hoped, using his feet to stop him from slamming forward to the floor. Instead he hit his face on the inside wall.


Deftly he lowered himself down and flipped back over. One look around the room told him none of the infected had noticed. He dropped to a crouch and skirted the wall to his left, trying desperately to not make any noises. He did have a surprise or two though if he did, one that he thought would never have to be tested.

As soon as he thought this a zombie was thrown through the door next to the kitchen by an explosion. An emerald liquid lay simmering around the edges of the door. Bit by bit the frame was eaten up, and the liquid moved on the surrounding walls. Mark sat there stunned. What happened? He had never heard of infected just blowing up randomly. The other infected started sauntering over to find out what had conspired and were getting just a little too close for comfort.

He gingerly removed his secret weapon from his pocket. With his other hand he pulled out a lighter. His secret weapon was a tiny cylinder filled with explosive powder. It had a small wick that jutted out from one end and when lit, committed a small explosion that could possibly distract the infected. He noted the word possibly because it had never been tested. To be honest it had never been even thought of as a weapon by the military. It used to serve as entertainment for holidays. He shook his head as he lit the wick and threw it to the other side of the room. He waited a few seconds for the sharp sound to ricochet the walls and bolted to the hole that used to be the kitchen door. He dove through and rolled back to his feet. He checked himself for the green liquid he had seen earlier. None.

Bringing his attention back to the kitchen, he noticed a few blood spatters on the countertops and cabinets. Someone had probably made a last stand in this room....and failed. After a second of navigating his way around all the blood on the floor he found the roof access hatch. He tugged on the cord connecting to the hatch and it came down easily. Unfolding the steps he took one cautious look back and scrambled up the stairs with renewed faith in himself.

Copyright 2012 via MyFreeCopyright

December 23rd, 2012, 05:11 AM
I'm interested to know what other categories there could be besides intellect and physical fitness. Those two titles are so broad, don't they kind of cover everything? Physical fitness is basically the overall condition of a person's body. And if he's got a 100 in that, can't he pretty much perform any physical task? If not, he at least wouldn't have only passed by the skin of his teeth. And the 100 in intellect is the same deal- it pretty much implies any activity involving mental acumen would come naturally to him. All in all, the fact that he managed to get 100's in those two categories, while simultaneously barely passing all the others is pretty far-fetched.

Also, perspectives are kind of fickle in third person narratives, but there was one point where the perspective switched noticeably from mark to victoria in the same paragraph. It was pretty jarring.

December 24th, 2012, 07:39 PM
Thanks for the comment! The other categories are not really revealed until later in the story but I will say one of them is Tactics. Having great physical fitness and intellect is great, but knowing how to implement them is another thing entirely. Which part did perspectives switch noticeably? I've been trying to work on this a ton and I want to get it right lol

December 24th, 2012, 07:51 PM
As they got closer Mark heard on his headset that the pilot was trying to hail the outpost. There was no answer. The pilot tried again and again. Still no answer. The silence on the other end of the line was beginning to make Mark worry. The pilot glanced at Captain Grubaugh and shook his head. The captain’s face tensed and he turned toward the troops.

“We are going to make a circle around the perimeter of the outpost. We won’t touch down until we know what has happened and why they aren’t responding.” he talked into his receiver.
Victoria nodded and looked at Mark. His eyes were closed and he seemed to be chanting something. She leaned her head closer to listen.

December 24th, 2012, 08:02 PM
Got it, thanks!

December 26th, 2012, 03:10 PM
I don't see how the protagonist earned 100 in physical either. He's incredibly clumsy and is constantly doing prat-falls, walking into walls, etc. I would expect with this kind of stooge-esque type of behavior he would be asked to have his eyes checked. I can't read this as any sort of commentary (which most good sci-fi ends up being) on anything because it's a slap-stick comedy.

I don't take his crush seriously because she's a two-dimensional anger machine with no redeeming qualities but that she's pretty. Yet, he knows her fairly well? Do they have a history? A friendship?

As for Zach, he doesn't show us anything but pretty muscles. I don't see him displaying any sort of tactical sense, no intelligence other than not saying something along the lines of "Hulk, smash."

There is a humor that runs throughout this piece but I can't appreciate it because it is self-deprecating--it's almost like you can't take these characters seriously so they end up being flat. It is ironic that you draw such a heavy comparison to "Teen Titans" (repeatedly mentioning Mark's preference for them automatically sets up a comparison between the two) because all the characters on the show--from what I've seen--are two-dimensional as well. They have their powers and a couple of personality tics. Otherwise there isn't much to hinge characterization upon.

I run D&D campaigns as both a DM and player and what I try to get my players to do is answer complex series of questions about motivations and preferences for their characters, answering as the character. My theory is that the more you know the character--whether your audience knows all of that or not--the better the character comes across.

If you can answer without any hesitation "So-and-so's favorite color is blue" and his motivations are ____ then you have no problem with knowing your character. As this reads I feel like Mark doesn't know his favorite color.

I'm not suggesting you apply this theory to every character but to the ones that are important to the plot and development of the story, yes, please run them through that kind of process. It also makes writing them so much easier.

I want to know more about how the world ended up a wasteland instead of flora and fauna running rampant as would happen when humans don't interfere. Is it because of the zombies? Are they tearing down grass? Also, how are they surviving 100 years after the event?