Learn Ch. 1 of Gary Whitta’s Sci-Fi Motion Novel

Think about a world the place people reside, however giant alien robots rule. A world the place you discover a mysterious map. A map that leads you to an ancient weapon. A weapon that may be the one factor that may destroy the alien overlords and restore freedom to humanity. Would you employ the weapon to avoid wasting the world?

That lovely mix of want success and hero’s journey is the setup for Gundog, the new novel by Gary Whitta. Whitta is finest recognized for writing main Hollywood screenplays like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, The Book of Eli, and After Earth. However, lately, he’s taken a few of his largest, finest, most unique concepts and filtered them through other mediums. Principally as a result of he is aware of massive, unique concepts don’t actually fly as films anymore.

Gundog is the most recent a type of. It first entered the world by way of Whitta’s Twitch, then a podcast, and now for the outdated of us, it’s an actual book out on September 12. To have a good time, Whitta has solely supplied io9 with your entire first chapter so you’ll be able to test it out and see if you’re all for studying concerning the hero who may need an opportunity to avoid wasting humanity in a mysterious, misplaced prototype known as a Gundog.

Gundog idea artwork by Owen Freeman
Picture: Owen Freeman

Right here’s Chapter One in every of Gundog, by Gary Whitta, which is out there here.

The morning alarm sounded earlier than sunup, because it did each day with out fail. That was one factor you possibly can say concerning the Mek: they have been dependable, like clockwork—probably the most superior clockwork anybody had ever seen. Their machine composition was so intricate that the army scientists charged with figuring it out through the ten-year warfare had barely begun to scratch the floor of what made them tick earlier than it was too late. And now these treasured secrets and techniques, obtained at such nice price and as soon as thought the one hope of turning the tide, have been misplaced endlessly. Obliterated by the Mek within the days after the warfare, together with the remainder of human historical past and studying.

The alarm was a shrill, modulated tone, designed by the Mek to trigger the best doable discomfort to the human ear. That they had studied human anatomy and neurology properly, each through the warfare and after, to maximise their each benefit over their enemy, and people efforts paid off in each element, together with this one. The alarm was primarily a sonic weapon that instantly introduced on piercing complications and nausea and didn’t stop till everybody in each barracks hut was off the bed and dressed and lined up exterior for the morning head rely. From the alarm’s first sounding to the time it was shut off was often lower than a minute. Few might tolerate it any longer than that. So there was no dawdling, even on the a part of these too sick or infirm to be off the bed at such an hour. Others would haul them to their toes, costume them, and carry them exterior in the event that they needed to. Something to cease that sickening sound.

The alarm roused everybody besides Dakota, who was already awake. She woke early each morning and dressed forward of the alarm, then lay on her bunk, her eyes adapting to the darkish, staring on the slats on the ceiling above. She had memorized each splinter and gnarl within the wooden by now. What else was there to do? She wished she might sleep by the evening, however some perpetual, indefinable itch in the back of her thoughts would inevitably wake her within the pre-dawn hours and preserve her awake whereas she listened to the loud night breathing of the others, or typically the cawing of a distant chook exterior.

And now the alarm drove a steel spike by her cranium and twisted her abdomen into an agonizing knot, and he or she was instantly on her toes and shifting rapidly throughout the barracks to her brother Sam’s bunk. He was sitting up, groggy from waking and wincing in ache from the excruciating sound. Most others within the barracks have been by now already off the bed and hurriedly dressing, however Sam was slower than most. Weaker.

“Sam, come on. Let’s go.” Dakota put her arm round him and lifted him off the bed. He swayed unsteadily on his toes as she helped him costume; Sam was lacking his proper arm under the elbow and it wasn’t simple for him to do it alone. Anybody who held up the top rely and the cessation of the alarm can be in for a tough time by the hands of their barracks mates for the remainder of the day, so Dakota all the time made positive that by no means occurred. He was a couple of years older than her, and for years he’d protected her, saved her alive, working and hiding collectively earlier than the Mek lastly captured them and introduced them right here. Now, collectively on this township, she did the identical for him. She was all he had.

Some fared higher than others in captivity. The robust ones survived, and the weak ones, who have been rapidly recognized by the Mek as a waste of rations, have been “recycled”—that’s what they known as it—for gasoline. Sam was someplace in between. He had as soon as been so robust—a tower of power and resilience that Dakota had come to admire and had tried to emulate. For so long as she might keep in mind, she had regarded as much as him. However these previous few years within the Mek township… that they had taken one thing important out of him. Hollowed him out.

People weren’t constructed to be prisoners, Dak, he had advised her time and again, once they have been nonetheless dwelling in deserted farmhouses and sewers and half-destroyed condo blocks, always shifting from place to position, making an attempt to remain hidden. If it involves it, I’ll care for us each. Higher to die free than reside in a cage. Again then, he all the time carried a pistol with two rounds in it that he’d saved for simply that goal. However when that point lastly got here, when the Mek drones surrounded them in an open subject with no hope of escape, he couldn’t carry “himself to place a bullet in his little sister. As a substitute he simply fell to his knees and sobbed. And so they have been each taken and introduced right here.

Within the years that adopted, Sam grew to become a dwelling monument to what he had all the time advised her. People weren’t constructed to be prisoners. Dakota’s coronary heart broke for him as she watched, every day lowering him to rather less than he was the day earlier than. He had misplaced a lot weight that Dakota scarcely acknowledged him because the robust, match man he as soon as was. His uniform coveralls hung saggy and shapeless on his skeletal body. His eyes had grown sunken, his pores and skin pallid. At evening, she would typically sit by the facet of his mattress and watch him sleep, and at instances he regarded to her like a lifeless man prepared for burial.

When Sam misplaced his proper arm a yr in the past, in an accident with a metal press whereas working in one of many township factories, that may properly have been the top. However Dakota, who was lucky to have been working simply exterior on the time and heard the cries, rushed in and saved him. Tied off the wound and cauterized it utilizing the manufacturing facility instruments at hand, then carried him again to the barracks to take care of him. She fearful he was already nearly as good as lifeless—the Mek thought-about a one-armed employee an inefficient expenditure of rations, and usually they’d have recycled him the identical day—however Dakota pleaded with the Mek supervisor to spare him, providing to separate her rations with him till he was properly sufficient to be productive once more. Coming from anybody else, such a plea would have fallen on deaf ears, however Dakota had confirmed her price to the township as an engineer and problem-solver many instances over, and so—in a uncommon and in the end pragmatic present of mercy—they allowed her brother to reside.

Sam by no means once more returned to full work. Within the Mek’s eyes, he was a cripple, able to solely menial chores and unworthy of a full ration of meals. So to maintain him alive, Dakota continued to separate her rations with him—to at the present time.

However the toll that these previous years as a slave laborer had taken on his physique wasn’t the worst of it. It was what it had accomplished to his spirit that crushed Dakota probably the most. All of the struggle had gone out of him. His quick-minded improvisation, which had saved them from Mek detection repeatedly throughout their years as fugitives, and the gleam in his eye as they sat by evening round makeshift fires and he advised her tales of humanity’s valiant final stand towards the Mek… all that was gone. Solely this emaciated shell remained.

Twice she had caught him near ending his personal life, as soon as with a sharpened piece of steel he’d snuck from the manufacturing facility, and later with a bottle of some dire Mek chemical stolen from a upkeep shed. Each instances she managed to speak him down, persuade him to maintain dwelling, if not for himself then for her, as a result of he was all she had on this entire depressing world, and if he left her, who knew how lengthy she would final earlier than following him. However she knew that regardless of his guarantees, the best menace to his life was not a Mek or one other accident, however his personal deliberate hand. So she continued to maintain an in depth eye on him. Typically, whereas he was speculated to be working the gardening plot or ferrying provides, she’d catch him simply staring on the horizon, or at nothing, and he or she’d know what he was pondering. She’d make her manner over as rapidly as she might—earlier than a Mek watcher might get to him first, to present him a low-voltage jolt to spur him again to work—and provides him a smile or a contact of her hand, some reminder that he hadn’t but misplaced every part.

Now she completed serving to him costume, and collectively they joined the road of employees rapidly submitting out of the barracks into the floodlit evening. Dakota hadn’t seen the true darkish of evening, the celebrities within the sky, for years, blotted out as they have been by the Mek gentle towers that blazed from nightfall to daybreak, holding your entire township awash in stark fluorescent gentle that made every part on the earth look synthetic, antiseptic, alien. There have been shutters on the barracks doorways to maintain the sunshine out so employees might sleep, however out right here within the open, it barely appeared like evening in any respect, at the very least not the type Dakota remembered. Nonetheless, it might be sunup quickly, after which the lights would shut down and cease buzzing, and there the blue sky of day can be, the solar and the clouds.

Not even the Mek might take that away.

She stood nonetheless beside her brother, ready because the Mek drone moved from one finish of the road to the opposite, scanning every face, ensuring everybody who checked into the barracks hut the evening earlier than was nonetheless current and accounted for. Solely when each drone surveying each hut was happy did the morning alarm fall silent. Everybody exhaled in reduction, their complications and abdomen pains abating, then on the sound of one other alarm, this one a brief however disagreeable digital squawk, they made their method to the canteen huts for his or her breakfast ration, the Mek drones registering and recording their each transfer.

* * *

By the point breakfast was over and everybody was reporting to their work assignments, the solar had simply began developing, respiration gentle and life into the day. There was a cool breeze, and Dakota took a second to cease and shut her eyes and really feel it waft over her, the briefest sense-memory of freedom. Then she heard the telltale clik-clik-clik of a Mek drone approaching and acquired shifting once more earlier than it might jolt her.

Most everybody within the township labored to serve the Mek. They toiled in factories and foundries and on meeting strains, turning the steel ore and different uncooked parts that arrived by automated convoy from different townships into the refined supplies and elements the Mek used to construct extra of their cities, construct extra of themselves. However Dakota was completely different. She labored to maintain the township itself. Her specialty commerce was every part. She fastened the plumbing when the pipes froze in winter or the bogs backed up; she patched fried electrical panels to maintain the hut lights on; she decontaminated the water provide when it grew to become undrinkable, because it so typically did from the Mek’s poisonous exhaust chemical substances leaching into the groundwater; she saved the barracks huts’ dilapidated heating and air flow programs working; she repaired damaged home windows and leaking roofs… mainly every part that wanted to be accomplished to maintain the Mek’s slave labor power from freezing to demise or dying from poisoning or dehydration.

Nonetheless, many did die. There was no township physician, nobody sufficiently old to have that form of coaching or expertise, and folks regularly succumbed to diseases and accidents that might have been routinely treatable earlier than the warfare. The Mek might simply have supplied medical services based mostly on their huge data of human physiology, however someplace alongside the best way certainly one of their impenetrable algorithms had calculated that it was extra environment friendly to tolerate the mortality fee than to expend assets to curb it. There was, in any case, a endless provide of individuals to interchange those that have been misplaced. New employees arrived within the township by way of Mek jail autos frequently.

Dakota was an exception in that regard. Although no human was actually useful, she was thought-about much less expendable by the Mek than most, as she had come to know each quirk and foible of the township’s run-down utilities, higher even than the Mek themselves, and if she have been to die, many extra would possibly observe earlier than she may very well be changed. Greater than the algorithm deemed acceptable.

As she went about her day, she was all the time cautious to not let Sam out of her sight for too lengthy. He’d just lately been moved to an outdoor gardening element, tilling crops that helped complement the employee meals provide, so she too tried to remain exterior as a lot as doable, making busywork for herself if obligatory. The Mek watchers would jolt her in the event that they thought she was procrastinating, however at the moment was simple. A barracks hut roof had sprung a foul leak, letting the rains in. Dakota may need wanted solely the work of a morning to patch the leak, however she had satisfied a Mek supervisor that it might be extra environment friendly to re-shingle the entire roof, additional convincing the Mek that it might take her at the very least two weeks—twice her “precise estimate. She wished to be up there so long as doable, not solely as a result of it gave her an excellent view of Sam and his backyard plot, but additionally as a result of she appreciated it up there. Being up off the bottom, nearer to the sky above, felt to her like a kind of freedom, although the roof of the hut wasn’t at the same time as tall because the township’s perimeter fence, which may very well be seen within the distance, towering over every part, an ever-present reminder that even the briefest feeling of freedom was an phantasm.

“Want a hand?”

Startled, Dakota nearly hit her thumb together with her hammer. She turned to see Runyon standing on the ladder she’d used to climb up right here, peering over the sting of the roof at her. He was one of many youngest employees within the township, eighteen or nineteen she guessed, though she’d by no means actually given it—or him—very a lot thought.

“Thanks, I’m good,” she mentioned, turning again to the shingle she was engaged on. After hammering a couple of extra instances, she acquired the sensation she was nonetheless being watched and turned once more to see Runyon nonetheless there on the ladder, taking a look at her. She glared at him, and this time he appeared embarrassed and regarded away.

“Do you want one thing?” she requested curtly.

“Completed with my element early, thought I would assist.” There was a quaver in his voice, like he was nervous, although Dakota couldn’t think about why. All she knew was, the very last thing she wished was somebody to assist her make this work go quicker.

She turned again to her work once more. “Go ask a supervisor. I’m positive they’ll discover one thing so that you can do. Or simply wait there—they’ll discover you.” And true sufficient, she heard a Mek observer approaching at roof peak, closing on Runyon. Its sensors had detected him misplaced and inactive, and even now, Dakota had little doubt it was charging its electrified prod to jolt him.

She was shocked by what Runyon did subsequent. He ought to have raced again down the ladder, however as an alternative, he stayed a second longer even because the drone drew nearer.

He spoke rapidly. “There’s story time on the rec hut tonight, proper after dinner ration. It’s best to come. I’ll be there. Will you come?”

Earlier than Dakota might reply, the drone moved inside only a few toes of Runyon, a second from jolting him, and he slid down the ladder and raced again to his assigned space. She shook her head, took one other roof nail from the field, and went again to work because the drone turned and moved away.

What occurs subsequent? Discover out in Gundog, which comes out September 12.

Need extra io9 information? Try when to count on the most recent Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s subsequent for the DC Universe on film and TV, and every part you must find out about the way forward for Doctor Who.

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