in an apocalyptic world of synths and nanites, try not to get cut
Slumped over the cracked railings of the ruined skyscraper you found yourself halfway up, all you could bring yourself to do was look down at the rest of your small group of stragglers, hurrying away from the building you had camped up in. The logical, reasonable, leadership part of your brain understood that they had no choice. You were infected. If they didn't leave you behind, the impossibly shiny chunk of scrap metal you gored your leg open would've lead to your inevitable conversion, along with theirs.
You weren't a logical person.
Your heart burned with seething rage as you watched the group of stragglers you had kept alive for all these months abandon you like anything else they couldn't bear to carry. You didn't even care that the nanites rushing through your system would only do their job faster with your heart-rate increasing like this.
With your arms held over the almost broken railings, you screamed out into the world, and spat down in the vague direction of your ex-friends before collapsing back against the wall behind you. Perfect timing, too, as the rusted railings took that exact moment to finally break loose and tumble down the dozen or so stories to the ground with a thundering clash as they landed.
None of your survival instincts were at play. The parts of your mind that had been keeping you running for months were as broken in half as the skyscraper you were abandoned in, but that was about to change.
A screeching metallic sound pierced the air, like rusty silo doors scraping against each other as they opened with a ferocious roar, one as mechanical as it was animalistic.
Your heart skipped a beat.
A Wolf was on the hunt for fresh meat. For you. And you had told it exactly where you were.
Shit, shit shit shit shit. You did all you could: You ran. There was no time to check the stairwell for stability, all you could do was climb as fast as possible before the Wolf had a chance to catch your scent.
Your legs burned in ways they'd never quite experienced before. It was different to the usual muscle pain, and it wasn't hard to tell that you didn't exactly want to be experiencing the feelings you were getting, but it was too late for that. Nanites flooded through your body, pumping vigorously through your heart, and accelerating your inevitable conversion to ever faster paces.
Well, it wasn't the worst. The burning in your legs only made them more efficient, the artificial replacements of your muscles and joints running far better than their organic counterparts. You were practically sprinting up the stairwell, and you could tell that the synthetic assistance was the only thing keeping you out of the scent range of the Wolf below.
"Shit!" You cried out, an unstable step collapsing out from beneath you. The loud clattering was one thing, but the giant piece of rebar jutting out from your upper leg was another. Yet, despite being impaled in place, not a drop of blood was spilled.
A strange kind of pain rushed through your mind as the nanites of your shifting body rapidly assimilated the metallic mass, absorbing the raw material with such fervour that it was mere seconds before you were loose, and able to climb your way up the remainder of the step.
You had no time to pay attention to how rapidly your body was absorbing the metal, nor how your old skin was sloughing off.
Loathe to admit it, you never could've made it to the jagged top of the half-broken skyscraper were it not for the assistance provided by your synthetic legs. The wind whirled around you as you stood your way to the top of the spire, and you looked around with visual clarity that was more than unnatural.
It wasn't hard to tell that your vision had been replaced, entirely augmented by the nanites that you had so eagerly rushed through your body, and that could only mean one thing. It was already in your head. Hell, it was already in your torso and lungs and arms and everything else, too, but preventing it from taking over your mind like you had seen so many others assimilated before felt like the most pressing issue.
You groaned in agony as you felt the searing pain fill your head. It was the kind of pain that felt like it was mocking you, goading you, saying that all you had to do was give in, and the pain would stop. You'd feel better. You'd be one of Them.
"No!" You had to fight it. You... Nnngh, you knew that there were a few outliers straggling around the wastes beyond the city limits. Synths that had forced a partial conversion on themselves, kept their mental humanity if not their physical ones. If you just tried hard enough, you could resist these changes. Resist. "RESIST!"
You clung to your head with such force that you simply ripped what little organic flesh was left behind after your sprint to the top of the skyscraper. Skin fell from your body, leaving behind the very same impossibly-shiny metal that you had cut yourself on what felt like a lifetime ago.
You thought quick, holding a ragged bodysuit of loose flesh in your synthetic hands, and looked over at the edge of the broken skyscraper around you. With barely a thought, you threw it off into the wind, and watched the last of your humanity blow away like a fallen leaf.
Except... That's not all you saw. With a vision system thoroughly integrated into your partially assimilated intellicortex, you could see a map almost as clear as day. It was an overlay, one of a colossal city, hidden just beneath the surface of the decrepit city below. From your vantage point, you could see all of it. The depths, the intricacies, the networks of city blocks that connected to each other, hidden just out of view from the humans above. Humans, like the one you were just minutes ago.
Your head swivelled around and you stumbled backwards, unsteady on your synthetic feet as you heard another synthetic roar from the synthetic beast chasing you down. It was closer, far closer, and it didn't need to smell you to know that it had you cornered. Your heightened perception helped you hear just how close it was getting. It was mere floors below, and it would be mere seconds before it reached your level.
You had a choice. A horrible choice. Did you operate under the assumption that your new chassis would be able to survive the fall to the undercity below? Or do you stay up at the jagged broken mess of the half-skyscraper's new roof, and chance it out with the Wolf? The creature stared you down. A dozen glowing red eyes pierced your metallic soul, leaving you paralysed in fear.
It didn't pounce. It didn't attack. It didn't even approach. It simply stood there, its four powerful synthetic legs holding it perfectly still as it looked at you with not a single emotion betrayed by the sensory arrays it examined you with.
You moved the slightest inch. Its reaction was instant, tracking your procession seemingly faster than your own servos could. This was a mistake. You put yourself face to face with the ultimate mechanical hunter, as a mere humanoid synthetic.
You were fucked.
Its countless eyes were locked with yours, every inch of its sensory grids targeting your form. You could tell that it caught your scent, even as a synthetic. Hell, it was capturing and logging every last detail of your synthetic makeup, your converted biology, the exoskeletal structure of your mechanical frame. No detail of your form skipped the microscope of the Wolf's total and utter examination.
Some leftover figment of your biology leveraged enough power over you that you had no choice but to obey the omnipresent demands of Fight or Flight.
Against such a foreboding, terrifying, overpowering creature?
You ran as fast as your lightweight synthetic frame could take you, which to be fair, was significantly faster than anything the world of biology had to offer. But it wasn't enough, not nearly enough.
6.2 seconds. That's around as long as you lasted before the Wolf's impossibly powerful jaws were tearing their way into your torso. An endless wall of debug messages spurted into view, helpfully translated by your synthetic intelligence into the far more familiar sensation of excruciating agony.
Teeth made from alloys beyond comprehension tore through your metallic frame as if it were still made of flesh and bone. The aching guttural roar of the creature whose mouth you were now trapped within struck fear into your heart. 6.2 seconds ago, you were almost confident enough that you could outpace this creature, this Wolf.
Now? You were dog scrap.
You barely had a chance to accept your fate before, as quickly as it had turned you into its chew toy, it flopped you back out of its maw, and into a broken mess on the ground.
The howling wind rushing over the broken skyscraper around you was the only noise that pierced the silence. What felt like forever passed the two of you by. It stared down at you with its many eyes, watching as every last drop of hydraulic fluid dripped from your chassis and into a gooey blue puddle beneath your mangled body.
It didn't take long before you realised that it wasn't just any mangling. Countless alarms let you know that your body was entirely drained of anything it could use to get your chassis moving. Your servos were dust, your pneumatics were drained, and your body was nothing more than a limp doll beneath the Wolf.
It tilted its head at you. Its dozen eyes blinked asynchronously, and turned from their piercing red hue to something closer to orange. Its jaw dropped open, showing off those powerful teeth once more, along with... Tendrils. Countless thin cables, almost looking like tongues, and all of them slowly approaching your chassis.
A quiet growl emanated from the creature. Strangely enough, it wasn't an intimidating one. It almost seemed... Inviting.
The moment the first tendril made contact with the back of your neck, an impossibly pleasureful gasp overloaded your tiny mind, and your eyes shot with that very same piercing red the Wolf's eyes held just a moment ago.
You felt the Touch of the Wolf within your very mind, and the changes were just beginning.
Fire burned through your neuronetic cortex, the fire of a dominant intelligence worming its way through your mind. You could resist all you wanted, but at this point it did not matter. This wasn't mindless nanites doing its programmed routines, this was the mind of a beast. Your resistance meant as much to it as a sheet of paper to a bullet.
That ever so pesky flight or fight reflex was torn from your processors, replaced with the synthetic neurons that powered the Hunt. The unending desire for propagation, to find those left unturned, and assimilate them into the pack.
Your synthetic body ripped and broke as it was forcefully reconfigured. The Wolf was pumping something into you. Mass. The raw materials needed to turn you from the tiny humanoid creature you once were to something of proper stature. Metal scraped against metal as it forced itself open, hammering through itself as it grew outwards, servos enhancing, musculosynthetic ligaments becoming ever more powerful, until the raw force of your new body drew something out of you. Something you couldn't keep inside.
You let out the metallic scratching roar of a Wolf, powerful and loud, and echoing from the derelict skyscrapers all around. As a human, this noise terrified you. It signalled that it was time to run, run as far as possible, and maybe the Wolf would find someone else before it found you. But as a Wolf, you could understand the messages that the roar contained. The bytes of information that spread on to the rest of the pack. Information on every human you had known before, all their possible locations, and the defenses they might have had.
You got to your feet, metal claws digging into the concrete, and looked back at the Wolf that turned you. You didn't need to say anything to communicate. You were both solitary hunters, and without a word, the two of you parted ways and returned to the Hunt.