The Olympics, one hundred years from now...
The Lone Survivor
It was the way he was breathing, the disturbance it made around him and in his mind. It wasn’t normal, different somehow. He felt so keenly aware of the changes that were going on inside his body that he awoke at once. He lay in bed with his eyes open trying to remember if he had ever closed them. He breathed again and felt the slow rise and fall of his barrel-shaped chest as he focused on his surroundings.
Something's about to happen.
There was a pounding on the gray metal door of his apartment, and the utter stillness was interrupted with booming waves of concussive explosions. Troy Kealy’s life was about to change and drastically transform into something . . . more.
“Open up! This is the Federal Government!” The husky voice was followed by more hammering and shock-waves.
Troy jumped catlike out of bed and headed for the front door. Beware the fury of a patient man, he thought. “Yeah? What is it?”
“Kealy? Troy Kealy?”
Troy cautiously opened the door, and then looked into the heavily tanned faces of three beefy men in military uniform. “Yeah, that’s me. What can I do for you, sergeant?”
“I’m Major Dolen Gray of the United States Army.” He fanned an official looking paper in Troy's face. “Troy Kealy, you have been carefully chosen to represent your country in the 2120 Olympics.” He handed Troy the paper, and then pushed past him and into the room. “Sign this and get your things together, son. We leave at once.”
“Wh . . . what? Olympics? There’s gotta be some kinda mistake.”
“No mistake, Mr. Kealy, like I said, you have been carefully chosen.” The Major scrutinized the room, furrowed his brow.
“Look, Major, I don’t know who put you up to . . .”
“This is no joke, son, your country needs you. Now, I’d suggest you get dressed and start packing, or we’ll just take you the way you are.”
Troy looked down, then realized he was naked. Grabbing his pants from a heap of clothes piled on the floor, he quickly slipped them on. “I thought the Olympics was a voluntary thing. Are you saying I’m being drafted?”
“Well, that’s the way it’s been done for the past ten years, Mr. Kealy. You should feel honored.”
“Honored? Hey, I've done my time, Sergeant. Now I've got a life of my own. The government can’t just come in here and take it all away.”
“It’s Major not Sergeant.” He pointed to the brass on his collar. “Got it? And I wouldn’t call this much of a life." He scanned the room. "Looks to me like we’re saving your ass.”
“Do you know who I am, really?”
“Your file is heavily classified, Kealy, but I do know that you were the lone survivor of the attack on the Martian Colony four years ago.”
“That’s all they told you?”
“Look, I got the impression from the higher-ups that this was the very reason why they wanted you.”
“Do you also know, that by all accounts, no one to this day knows why I survived, or how? And that it took two years for the government to fully debrief me.” He sat down on the bed. “I’m sick of the government! Why don’t they just go blow it out their ass?”
A small Chinese man appeared in the doorway. “Mr. Kealy, Mr. Kealy! You give me three months rent, Mr. Kealy! You give me now!” He entered the room, and his mouth nearly dropped to the floor. The apartment looked like a bomb had gone off inside: the walls had holes punched into them, and the only furniture left standing was the hardback wooden chair next to the bed. “What have you done, Mr. Kealy? You must pay me now, or I call police.”
The Major signaled to one of his men, who immediately took the landlord by the arm. “Mr. Kealy is now under the jurisdiction of the United States Government. He is our country’s newest Olympic hopeful. You should be proud that you can say he stayed in your building.” He pushed the man out of the room.
The Asian was reluctant to go. “But he owes me money! I want my money!”
“You need to contact your congressman and formally submit a written request for any monies owed you.”
The soldier pushed him out and slammed the door.
The Major sneered at Troy. “Yes . . .quite a life you got here, Mr. Kealy, quite a life.”
Troy slipped his shoes on before pulling on a wrinkled shirt from the pile of clothes. “Let’s go,” he said, in defeat, and then led the way out the front door.
Eleven hours later, after being poked, probed and inoculated, Troy found himself in New South Africa where the 2120 Summer Olympics were being hosted. On his way to the plushest hotel in Cape Town, Troy marveled at the famous city. The crowded dwellings of the surrounding neighborhoods were of simple construction but still pleasing to the eye, whitewashed with lime taken from the chalk cliffs. The city itself had a Gothic style with its tall edifices and multilevel roof lines, spires, and carved columns. They were one of the few countries that did most of their production by hand instead of with automated machinery. New South Africa had become the leading cultural and anthropological center on the world, and they prided themselves on having the best craftsmen and artisans anywhere.
As the hover-cab pulled into the hotel aula, Troy was assailed by a barrage of human reporters and robotic photographers. Over the next few days, they would interview, record and make their hypothetical analysis of Troy’s every movement. For the first time in his life he felt important, felt like he mattered to more people than just the Government. He was treated like a king or, as Troy liked to think of it, as a condemned prisoner receiving his last meal.
The phone-vid flashed on and Troy was greeted by the President of New South Africa. “Mr. Kealy," he said, "so wonderful to have you and the American Team here with us in beautiful Cape Town.”
“Thank you, Mr. President.”
“I want to be the first to wish you the best of luck in the up and coming events. Tomorrow the Olympic torch will be carried through the center of Cape Town." The man was overly fat and breathed heavily between sentences. "I am expecting all Olympians to attend the ceremonies. The parade is at 9 AM. See you there.” The vid abruptly winked out.
“Great, a parade.” Troy plopped down on the bed and it automatically adjusted itself to fit his body. His mind troubled over the thought of all the events he would have to face in the next five days and whether or not he would survive.
Each country was allowed one Olympian representative, and one alternate. The alternate could only be used in cases of serious bodily injury or death. So the Olympian, in affect, was equivalent to each country's most perfect Herculean athlete.
Troy didn’t think he would be able to cut the mustard. He was no athlete, but some big-wigs in the government thought otherwise. And now, here he was, in a competition that could only be compared to what the ancient Roman gladiators had gone through. Troy could identify with the mentality, “win or die.” He had always been at his best when the chips were down, and right now he knew the stakes were at their highest.
He was the only one to endure the savage attack on the Mars Colony by unknown mutatious aliens. By all rights he should be dead, or worse, a mutated thing that no longer resembled a human being. What these creatures did to the humans stationed there was probably the most abominable thing that has ever been done to human beings in recorded history. Yet, somehow, Troy lived -- walked away with his mind and body still intact. But Troy had his moments -- moments of waning reality and terrifying nightmares.
He remembered how the aliens had appeared out of nowhere and hovered above the settlement in a multifarious craft so bizarre and unfamiliar that it boggled the human mind just to look at it. In the chaos that followed, they systematically captured and performed bizarre experiments on the colonists, introduced an alien mutagen into their bodies, and then watched as the settlers became something more -- something other-than-human. The process of transformation killed them all, over a thousand. But somehow Troy survived. He did not die, and he did not change. The aliens seemed satisfied with this, and left as quickly as they had come.
The Government had kept everything 'hush-hush', and the media was told that the settlement had been hit by meteorites, compromising the integrity of the base, and all life was tragically lost. There was never any mention of aliens, reprehensible transformations, or of a survivor--end of story.
The following morning Troy found himself escorted along the parade route. It was a festive occasion, and the citizens came out in show of public spirit for the Olympics; they were dressed in colorful raiments of magenta, blue, and yellow. Musicians aboard hover-floats played lofty melodies of heroic fantasy that inspired the soul. Troy took it all in and found himself enjoying every moment.
The procession eventually entered the enormous arena that held over two hundred thousand. The crowd cheered wildly as the participants were marched around the field. Small flags, designating the different countries, were waved in the air in a colorful expression of world support. Troy took it all in with inexpressible feelings. He could only think that he was finally getting the recognition he so richly deserved. He had survived the unendurable, and this is how the world should have treated him when he had come home four years ago.
A square-jawed man approached Troy from the sidelines as the parade of athletes came to a halt. His body looked to be chiseled from solid stone.
“Kealy?” He stuck out his hand. “I’m your alternate, Warren Bost. It’s good to meet you.”
Troy reluctantly took the offered hand. “Nice to meet you too, uh, Warren.” The man’s grip could have a cracked a walnut.
“If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to the American Team’s dugout.”
Troy sensed some animosity in the man. He hurried to catch up with him. “You with the military?” Troy asked.
“Yeah, just like ninety-nine percent of the other athletes here. You’re the only one with no military experience. I don’t know how you’re gonna survive the first day. But I’m ready to go in the minute they carry you out.”
“That’s a comforting thought.” Troy could sense the man’s aggravation. “Look, uh, Warren, this wasn’t my idea. Why don’t you talk to your damn superiors? They’re the ones responsible for all this.”
Bost ignored him. “I’m instructed to educate you in all the Olympic equipment that you’ll be required to use during competition.”
Troy was tired of being ignored. “Look, if you got a beef with me, just spit it out.”
The soldier spun around and stuck his face just inches from Troy's.
“Yeah, I got a beef. I was set to represent the American Team until just two days ago. Me! And then, lo-and-behold, I receive new orders of the change in plans. I’ve been in training for years! Do you understand that? Four damn years of my life wasted now that you're here.”
“Hey, you wanna start first? Have at it. I couldn't care less.”
Warren shook his head. “And this is America’s best? Where’s your patriotism?”
“I left it on Mars.”
“Mars? What the hell are you talking about?”
“Nothing. Let’s just get on with this.”
For the rest of the day, Troy was thoroughly rehearsed in the operation of the Olympic machinery. Finally, he was allowed to collapse onto his hotel bed late that night. That’s the last thing Troy remembered. That, and the dream of an indescribable creature injecting him with a phosphorous blue liquid.
Four hours later, Troy received his wakeup call. And an hour after that he found himself on the Olympic field with Warren Bost giving him a few last minute pointers.
“Keep your back to the wall. That’s one less direction you’ll have to worry about. And keep moving. For God’s sake don’t just sit there waiting to be somebody’s target. Look for weaknesses, and use them to your advantage.”
“Yeah. Anybody get close to you . . . blast the hell out of ‘em.”
The ancient Roman horns blew, signaling the start of the games.
“All right, saddle up and get ready.” Bost slapped him on the back. “And good luck.”
Troy approached the spider-slider. It was a war-machine that resembled a spider with two robotic arms jutting out of its center. A set of four sturdy legs held its low-slung body core just above the ground.
Troy settled into the cockpit and turned on the machine. The robot automatically waved its sensor arms and weapons lenses. Troy gripped the controls and tested the steel gleaming legs, lifting the metal pads and adjusting the hydraulics.
The horns sounded again and the weapon-studded warrior-forms strode forward in lockstep toward their designated marks.
There were twenty-one competing countries and Troy looked across the field at his opponents. Within his wide-range operating program, a three-dimensional image was displayed on his control panel. Troy studied the competitors closest to him. Sweat emerged on his forehead and his wet palms clutched the controls tighter.
The horns sounded again and then all hell broke loose.
He had already been targeted and his spider-slider stumbled backward with the assault. Troy quickly hit the shield button and it crackled to life with a lightweight electrical covering that gave little protection to the control pod in which he sat. He slammed the controls and continued his backward slide toward the wall.
“What the hell are ya doing?” Bost’s voice filled the headset.
“Trying to stay alive! What do ya think I’m doing?”
“Put your weapons on automatic! Choose your closest target and disable him! Keep moving!”
Troy hit the auto-weapons display and started forward at a run toward his nearest robot. His low-grade plasma lasers danced crazily across his target’s pod shield. Troy kept blasting and literally ran over the top of his opponent and continued moving on toward the next mechanical spider.
In the heat of battle, Troy didn’t have time to look around to see how well he was doing. He just kept running and shooting. In his dance of hit and run, he saw several destroyed spiders with smoke issuing from them. He breathed a sigh of relief that it wasn’t him.
“Watch your backside!” yelled Bost. “Enemy at six o’clock!”
“I can’t see him!”
"It’s the Russian, and he’s hot on your ass! Move!”
Troy veered left then right, but couldn’t shake the pursuing spider. He started to stress out. His nerves felt like a tightening vice, and his entire body trembled under the strain. His survival instinct told him to do the unexpected, so Troy suddenly stopped his spider and the Russian slammed into the back of him. Troy back-peddled and climbed on top of the Russian, stomped on the man with his mechanical leg and pulped him into the ground.
The sight of the blood awakened something inside of Troy. His vision blurred as he started to mutate.
“Jeez, Troy, what the hell are you doing?”
Troy didn’t answer. He watched in horror as three limbs sprouted out of his chest and started working the controls. He felt something happening to his head as eye-stalks grew through his scalp and gave him a complete 360 degree view.
His multiple hands blurred on the controls, directing his mechanism to attack every spider on the field. Finally, the machine’s optic threads glowed like white hot stars and he was forced to shut down his computerized navigational systems. But he kept shooting at the downed spiders until every opponent was either dead or dying.
Troy quickly abandoned the downed robot and jumped to the ground. He grew extra legs even as he ran, his arms retracting back into his body.
Security police flooded onto the field. Troy traveled crablike darting away from them. As he moved, his body mutated again and sprouted twelve inch blades along his back, front, and arms. When the police came within reach, he ran through them, the blades puncturing and tearing through their soft, pulpy bodies. Continuing to move, he dropped them to the ground like bloodied rag dolls, and then grabbed another.
The crowd panicked at the sight. Screaming, they ran over each other to reach the exits. Troy crawled up the wall and into the box seats like an insect.
“Isn’t this what you wanted to see?” he yelled at them. “Blood, death and destruction? Isn’t this what you came for?” He threw another corpse from him that had been pin-cushioned to his back.
His name resonated in his ears. It was Bost on the headset.
“Yes, Warren, may I help you?”
“In God’s name, man, what...are you?”
Troy turned toward the American Team’s dugout; he saw Bost just inside the shadows of the overhanging roof.
“I am a survivor, Warren.”
“Survivor? You’re a goddamned monster!”
A low hum reverberated through the stadium. Troy looked up to see the same grotesque craft he had seen four years earlier on Mars. It hovered just above the arena.
“It is a human quality to survive, Warren,” he said, swallowing back a lump of tears, the last shred of humanity left him. “To endure, one must be willing to change. The aliens knew this when they altered my body. All life is the sum of the forces that resist death. I am the last man standing -- the lone survivor.”
There was a brilliant flash of light and Troy Kealy was gone. The alien ship immediately blinked out and disappeared.