Note: this is a work of fiction, with all the usual stuff about copyright and permission. It’s also a work in progress and a way to develop my knowledge of the english language. So feel free to correct, debate, laugh, ask about it in the comments. Help appreciated.
You may find the index here.
I never liked deserts. I’ve been stationed in Saudi Arabia for a full year before the second Gulf War, that was more than enough for me. It took me two full days to reach the northern limit of the Desert Of Steel, the first travelling aboard a wagon with Kellan and her brother, the second jumping at maximum speed by my own. Omniplan surely picked me from its satellite surveys the second day, that was enough for it to stop that awful scream.
Keller told me a lot about that desert and all its dark tales. In a world where all it took to know anything was to have access to one of the Omniplan labs that was the only unexplained zone. That computer simply denied every information about it and even his super detailed maps showed only a grey stain instead of that area. Many explorers tried their luck in the past, almost nobody came back to tell what they found there. The only constant in all those dark tales was the presence of steel. Spikes, cables, shards… something always on the ready to strike with lethal consequences.
There was a pillar, just off that desert. A simple column, made of granite. With the names of those who tried that side for exploring the unknown. Name and date of entry. No date of exit was present, so much for the myth about the lucky explorers. It was an hot day, almost with no wind at all. I could see some structure, about two miles from where I was standing. The merciless blue sun was at his zenith. Following the instructions given by Keller I approached slowly the area, running inside as fast as a normal man. Terrain was good, most part of it solid with a few pockets of fine sand here and there. After two hundred yards I spotted the first sign of steel, there was a structure half buried in the sand, maybe an antenna mast. From there I found more and more pieces and shreds of steel. Machinery parts, poles, tools and many little things. All of that stuff showed sign of extreme distortion from heat and pressure. Here and there I found vitrified sand under thin layers of normal sand, another tell-tale sign of extreme heat.
The worst part was the complete absence of life. I was thinking about radiation contamination, a factor that combined with a massive presence of steel could explain a lot about that. Keller told me that they had no idea about how many years ago the disaster inside that desert took place, their chronicles dated as far as a thousand years before. If there was a nuclear explosion the hardest part of radiation contamination should be exhausted but without proper instruments that was just an hypothesis. All my NBC training was worth nothing without equipment. After a mile or so I run out of patience, resuming full speed in my movements. That saved my life. In the position I was a moment before something stroke, a kind of steel whip faster than everything I’ve seen before on Zeranta. While on maximum speed I started an evasion path, right on time to avoid a second steel whip, this from the direction of the ruins. The good news was that I was too fast for them, the problem was that I wasn’t able to understand where the attacks came from.
After a few seconds two steel spheres, both about the size of a basket ball, came in sight. Those things were slowly levitating a few inches over ground, moving in my direction. I tossed in their path a handful of stones with no results, so I decided for a more direct approach running at full speed in their direction. Both of the spheres reacted, opening at the top to unleash their whips at me. It was bullet time again, it was easy for me to get a grip on both whips and go on with my run. As a result the spheres collided with a loud crash. No more problem from those things. The presence of such defenders spoke volumes about that place. Drones that could levitate, strike and detect human presence were more than enough to explain why nobody came back from the desert of steel.
I had to eliminate ten more spheres before reaching the ruins. Four buildings, a handful of minor structures and a little graveyard. Time to search for the truth, best before sunset.