No one expects a calamity in the 21st century. Your always under the impression that with near constant advances in civilian and military technology, you'd be forgiven in thinking your life was 100 percent safe, stable, and perfect. In 2025 however, mankind had that taken away from them.
People called it, "The Gate of Hell" incident. When in truth all it was a hole opening up and unleashing all sorts of unholy horrors onto Earth. As if to add insult to injury, many of them also opened up in the US and South America. The biggest, most populated countries often got the worst treatment. Feral beasts from underground carved a blood swath from underground. Monsters of various shapes and sizes, powerful as they were cunning. Beings long since thought dead, walking amongst man as if prehistoric and modern era clashed in worldwide bloody skirmish.
Some call it a war, but anyone who fought in this time will tell you exactly what it was. Survival. These creatures ranged from fast, nibble, and clever. To massive, monstrous, and powerful. Of course, it would be safe to say their traits were as various as their population was high. Overpopulation just so happened to be the main reason why these beasts were erupting from the planet's crust to begin with. Like mankind, too many of them had learned to thrive in their own environment. And many a species were beginning to grow into numbers more so then their homes can handle.
The creatures ranged from ancient dinosaurs and reptiles, to large mammalians fitting the description of those that wandered during the time of the ice age. But some of these beasts, was as if they appeared out of a fantasy novel. Some cases, more like out of a horror novel. The creatures that dug these holes were massive tunnel worm creatures that were forced out of their homes by competing creatures. These 'tunnel worms' were massive in size and difficult to kill. The world's best militaries would often have to throw their heaviest ordinance to just simply scratch their extremely thick hides. Of the dozens that were encountered and dozens more reported, only a handful were ever to recorded to be killed.
It simply went to show the pure durability of these monsters. It almost made what came out after it feel like a cake walk. Almost, but not really. Tyrannosaurus Rexes were then confirmed to be alive, then many other prehistoric creatures associated with dinosaurs soon followed suite. But not only that, giant insects, large predators like saber tooth cats and other horrors soon followed suit. Then the worst came out of it. Dragons. Titans. "Great Beasts" they called them. In various forms too. Some looked more akin to serpents in Asiatic legends, some looked more akin to large wyverns often cited in European mythos also began to show up.
But not only that, bipedal one eyed giants nicknamed "cyclops" were a thing too. Often having incredible strength, height, but a rather nomadic lifestyle. A sign that not all of the monsters were just mere animals. The "Catclysm" as it was called left humanity with a sudden realization. That they weren't as on top as much as they liked to think anymore. And a brutal and uncaring lesson it was for them. Many of the creatures that swept the Earth like a tidal wave were doing so more out of survival and instinctual drive. When they bumped into humans the results were that they either tried to flee, or become aggressive at the sight of potentially new competitors for territory. As well as some seeing them as a fresh snack.
World militaries were deployed in full, some simply doing far better then others. But this proved to have it's fair share of problems too. For one, some monsters were sound sensitive beyond belief. Not only that, but extremely aggressive. They were not indestructible, but were extremely tough to kill. And were responsible for exceedingly high amounts of casualties. They were the ones that even the most hardened of soldiers dared not to go near them. The ones that did have to kill them, were said to have a uneviable task. Only bright side was that they had specialized armor piercing firearms meant to kill them. It eventually proved successful, but trial and error had it's faults.
Of course, that's not even beginning the sheer amount of terror that the civilian populace faced everyday. Cities were transformed into hunting grounds in mere days once the larger predators began roaming around. The fact is they were far more of them then the Military could deploy tanks. Sure, these tanks were often of high quality, but they were low in number. And it usually mattered little if you can drop three oversized lizards with one shot if one managed to get to your vehicle.
The first few months were hell on earth for humanity. Some people tried to hide by locking themselves up in their room. Only to eventually be sniffed out by pack hunting velociraptors that would make quick meals out of them. While those with firearms could fight back, they would soon realize that they would be using said firearms alot more from now on. And getting ammunition wouldn't exactly be easy if one wrong turn meant alerting an entire pack of raptors or large wolves. Which were indeed a thing, wolves much larger then any dog on the planet had started to appear in the more wooded, and snowy parts of the world. Establishing themselves as apex predators among their much smaller cousins.
This new world was savage, cruel, and quick to take away and punish those who were not smart or strong enough. Even with those traits, it still took away so much. For the first world countries who had been knowing nothing but prosperity the past few decades, it had to be the harshest wake up call one could have. It was hard for second, and third world countries as well. But in some ways, the third world countries may have been more prepared, due to their inhabitants being relatively hardy and smart in terms of survival before hand.
The fact was, life was far more challenging then they were used to. And it often sorted out the weakest from the strongest relatively quickly. Some people built walls around their greatest cities. Others regressed into more tribal like societies not too far from what early humans did, except with more modernized equipment. Some became roving gangs, marauders, who would prey on unsuspecting wanderers. Some were nomadic bands that focused more so on not staying on one place at a time in order to combat the ever looming threat that were the beasts.
Really given time, humanity adapted relatively quickly to the more primal neighbors. Even so it wasn't at all a easy existence. For a time, they were united against a new threat. Combating and regulating the population where ever they went. Eventually though, new civilizations came to replace the old however. And stability came. It was of course, a imperfect one. Many big cities still had to send out those more equipped to survive the many horrors of this new world. But all in all, they had learned to coexist, yet not dominate their new neighbors.
These 'expeditions' were often very dangerous. As a result, most of these outdoorsmen, often called 'Rangers' no different from Texas Rangers of old were the most skilled trackers, navigators, and even beast hunters of the bunch. They were often more competent then the best guards and city militia. Speaking of such things, your probably aware that technology often varies from city to city right?
It's no secret that those cities both above and below ground have accessed to more wealth and resources when compared to others. The simple truth those that have more access to resources and tech will be far better off then those who have less of them. Take the city of Washington, arguably was far more prepared with it's already impressive amount of security when compared to cities like Detroit and Chicago. While despite their high crime rate and known for their rugged city folk, arguably got it much worse in comparison due to the fact that many inhabitants within it were impoverished to the point that some could barely defend themselves. Cities like these often took it the worst when a disaster like this happened. The only clear warning they really had was the homeless down below suddenly disappearing without a trace.
You can bet they wish they investigated the disappearances more after the Cataclysm. Too bad it wouldn't have made much difference either way. If you were unlucky enough to know what was about to happen roughly moments before it started, you would have more then likely would have been slaughtered by the Tunnel worms moment you came across them. After all, they were essentially were as fast as they were massive.
The cities vary in quality. The first world arguably has the better quality cities by far in terms of technological prowess and living standards. Some of these resemble what life was like in the early 2000s and and 2020s, not only that but the armies and other warriors they have at their disposal are reminiscent of armies and civilizations as old. The downside is, many in the first world are no where near united as they once were. Some cities have diplomatic ties to one another while others are caught up in full scale wars. As the Cataclysm proved to be so deadly it knocked out towers and devices responsible for the internet itself. A technology long since lost to time.
The second world is a similar state albeit not much better, if anything it could be considered worse. As the biggest player of it, China was said to have a stricter way in maintaining control. Their cities are known for their rather loyal citizens. However, their known to rife with warfare. Countries like Russia didn't fair much better, but the inhabitants are often said to have a surprisingly cheery outlook on things despite some of their high risk lifestyles. As for third world, it absolutely destroyed what fickle democracies lied their. As many simply did not have the resources or stronger forms of government that either parties had.
It's hard to even call what they have in Africa and the rest of the Middle East even cities. Life their already was as deadly as it could be, when the Cataclysm happened it simply intensified what was already their. But on the bright side, many people within that hemisphere of living are some of the toughest and most prepared individuals one can find. Due to many being related to generations no stranger to warfare and strife, when the beasts came many simply shrugged and prepared for whatever nature had to throw at them.
Ironically, despite the harsh and unrelenting lifestyle many inherent, some are said to be rather friendly despite obvious suspicion of outsiders. Unfortunately, this did not dissuade any of the more hostile and militaristic groups in the area. As not even forces of nature can shatter ideologies. More often then not, they usually strengthen them. Some took as their god punishing them for not waging war enough in his name. Others saw it as punishment for waging war in the first place. Thus infighting within this area is very prevalent. And all those from the first and second world can agree that it's best to not head over without a plan.
But the third world itself is not even as bizarre as some of the underground dwellings that were created by those who were caught in the onset of the cataclysm. Most of these people were miners, workers, individuals that took some of the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs known to man. If you thought third-worlders were tough, you haven't seen these guys. Absolute workhorses most of them, firm believers of pulling one's own weight. And those above thank them for it, as they often pay them to drill deeper and study more of the world within their own.
These societies can be as prosperous as they are dangerous. Always pushing the boundaries of what they can mine and harvest. Ever since that fateful day when the tunnel worms opened the planet's crust for all sorts of horrors to simply walk into, their were those who saw opportunity while everyone saw catastrophe. These people were often workers and owners of mining companies, who weren't exactly bent on letting all those resources go to waste. And many resources they did find. Of all the wellsprings of vast amounts of gold, silver, and diamond, one resource stuck out. A purple crystal that had the ability to shift one's gravitational pull ever so slightly.
Of course, these "Grav crystals" as the miners liked to call them are immensely guarded. Some of their best military units keep them under lock and key. Despite their more industrial and rugged appearance, the underground cities are considered to be some of, if not one of the most advanced societies around. Mainly due to their advantage if gravitational technology. Something that hasn't been used since mankind's glory days of space travel.
Funny enough, we are on the verge of becoming interstellar. Before the Cataclysm happened. It set us back a great deal, but one thing I can say is that it made humanity more prepared then ever. Even if it was at the cost of technological prowess, to say we were completely weakened would be a utter lie. Looking back on the earliest generations of those who were forced to rapidly adapt into a drastically changed world, it's safe to say those who came later who knew nothing but avoiding and minimizing fights learned how to properly combat this world's troubles much smoother then those who knew nothing but stability, peace, and luxury.
Even so, it did bring age old issues. Your teachers have probably told you about generational gaps right? Of course they did. How could they not. Some of you have family members that were alive during humanity's "golden age of technology". After all, your listening to one ramble right now. A dusty old fart such as myself tends to remember things more clearly then he likes to admit. Even so, knowing that helped a great deal of people from repeating the same mistakes is not something I feel ashamed of.
Oh? How does humanity handle the holes? Well, for the most part we usually stay away from them. Some try to "plug them up". But very few have the resources. The tunnel worms dug and they dug deep. Pushed back by competing Titans that were doing too good for their own environment. Theirs rumors that tribes of humans lie beyond the massive craters left by the tunnel worms. However, that is yet to be truly confirmed. If your asking what I think? I think people should not be playing near the holes where a new monster manages to crawl out of almost every day.
Some of the first world cities have been trying for generations to seal the holes that unleashed these monsters upon their homes. Some of their leaders are even rumored to have life extension technology on hand. But this has yet to be confirmed. But I wouldn't exactly going asking around those types of questions in your homes. People tend to guard those types of secrets with their lives, if you rather keep yours it's best you never ask them.
Regardless, because of mankind's near universal fascination with the holes, it has allowed for amazing advances in technology. We've made vehicles able to safely traverse them with relatively low casualties. Emphasis on low, not completely without. "Hole divers" have the unenviable task of having to go down and study some of the world's most ancient craters. Of the many that go down their, it's not uncommon for only half a platoon or a third to return. And mind you, these are some of the most competent individuals alive.
None of them are the types that lack common sense, nor have poor survivability. It's for this very reason why the first world has tight connections with the Mining guilds. They tend to traverse this subterranean frontier better then anyone. The second world has their equivalent to it as well, however the danger is immediately turned up higher then what most first worlders have to deal with. As for the third worlders, their are very few equivalents. And the ones that do make it back, are often scared and broken beyond belief.
So as you may have guessed, your lives are bound to be stricken with moments of vulnerability, stress, and wondering if you made a bad decision. And weather or not you may even survive at all. But hey! Your still alive now aren't ya? That means your probably more competent then your thinking. Heh, you guys are no strangers to suffering indeed. Some of you have the get ups of nomads and brigands. Former bandits even. Now don't worry! I am not here to weigh you on your sins. But I can tell you have the expressions of those that have had their fair shares of beatings, bruises, and tragedies. Your rugged men I can tell. Those that are more focused on maximizing your own profits by making use of the skills you have.
To which one such as myself can say, good on you! And thanks for not caving in this old man's skull for laying out the facts bare. To me that already shows you've proven many a person's presumption of you wrong beforehand. And that many of you have good strength of character. Ah....but your interested in tales of heroes, adventurers, entrepreneurs, and leaders. I can see it plastered over your faces. You want to know some serious stories yes?
Heheheheh. Well get comfortable my wandering friends. Because this old crow has barely scratched the surface of this world you now inhabit. You yourselves know that the world wasn't always like this. You didn't even need me to tell you that. But your probably wondering what types of individuals carried humanity into this harsh cruel age no?
Mankind has always had a tendency to look towards a rapid solution to their problems. A finger to point out where their troubles originated from. Unfortunately that meant they were quick to attack each other before they were willing to work with on another. Those first few hellish months are enough to keep any hardened man up at night. Entire families wiped out because some carnivorous predatory simply rounded the corner and gobbled them up. Or crushed into piles of mush because a titan just so happened to be walking down the street.
It was a chaotic, and truly uncaring time. Many people who have had been going through hard times before hand, became jaded. Their true natures being pushed to the surface after facing set back after set back. Some of the earliest marauder groups originated from people with this mindset. Often thinking, "If life has taken so much from me, why does it matter what I take from it?" And for a time it worked for them. But they soon became a menace to humanity as a whole.
Your probably wondering who lead us in our darkest hours? Who lead us from the brink of extinction. I'll tell you know it was no one man or woman. It was a collection of leaders long since dead. Though their actions were so great and impressive that they were immortalized through history. The Americans in my group are probably aware that a section of the US Military that served as a reaction force for when the first beasts came flooding in are responsible for most of the cities.
At the top was a already grizzled war veteran and general "Mad Dog" Mattis. Although records of him are fairly sketchy due to many being lost and scattered across time, I can tell you one hundred percent the man despite his age was as impressive as his namesake. A man of action he was, and even though as he neared the end of his life he continued to coordinate defenses and focus on minimizing as many civilian casualties as he could. Even as the US crumbled and became the scattered wreck it is today, his "Marines" are still used by many cities when they have to go to war or have something deadly killed.
If the "Rangers" are the scalpel, these Marines often serve as hammers. Carrying with them old world weapons and technology long since lost to time. Some cities even have vehicles that are capable of shattering buildings called tanks. If you ever see one, pray that it's on your side. Because if it isn't, you usually won't live long enough to face it.
Some of you, I can tell your soldiers. Battle hardened men who have faced deployment after deployment. I see your equipment and how it resembles empires of old. Even now, as your far more split then ever you carry yourself as they did. Fight like they do. Your ancestors would be proud of you. All of you. But enough of a old man being sentimental! On to understanding the origins of the cities!
As for the cities? They were built by the most talented architects that managed to survive the Cataclysm. Peter Zumthor, Shigeru Ban, Christian de Portzamparc, many individuals such as these just saw this as another challenge for them. To these bright individuals, they saw it as opportunity to flex the skills they already had garnered during mankind's golden age. And flex they did. Cities such as Washington, Moscow, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Bangkok, all of those cities had already incredible building planners and makers within them.
So not only was it a time to shine for those who already had their capabilities in urban planning, but also those who were young upstarts already going to work in a raw and untapped new field. Rebuilding society from the ground up. Their was also a need for diplomats and ambassadors. I could go on and on about these types of people. But honestly, their is just so many to name. That and I doubt many of you are interested in learning about how people build things. Most of you are roamers, you don't stay in one place for too long. That's how you survived up to this point to begin with anyways.
No, you want to learn about the earliest beast hunters no doubt. How simple men became the apex predators that hunted the apex predators. Well, I can tell you it wasn't overnight. And that most of these beast hunters were individuals knee deep in their own hate for these monsters. Many of them were children when the Cataclysm happened. And survivors of the "First Wave" as they call it. If any of you know your history, you know the First Wave was directly after the tunnel worms subsided on their little drilling operations was when all the big beasties started running a muck.
You also know that humanity, despite all their technological advancements was completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of beasts and titans that crawled out of the holes. A Tank is only good if it can kill the T Rex before it can charge it, not after. And the air force and artillery become more of a burden then asset if most of the creatures are concentrated in large populist areas. Thing is, it wasn't just above ground predators that were a problem.
Fact is, the tunnel worms weren't the only thing with burrowing capabilities. Remember what I said about large insects? That also goes for arachnids too. And lots of them had burrowing capabilities. And many of them just so happened to appear in the cities. Where lots, and lots of fresh new prey could be ambushed. Think about it, panicky, terrified humans? All running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Perfect for giant scorpions to come in and take full advantage of all the chaos. Luckily, they moved to hotter, dryer areas. But even so, I still get nightmares from those things. Yeeeeugh...
The old man shivers as he thinks back to horrors long past. As if thinking on terrors long since past. He grows tired. Exhausted.
Rest up for now. All of you, I think I've said all I can say at this given moment of time. We have a long day ahead of us, complete your shifts and those of you who need to be in bed, do it now. Trust me when I say this lot already has it's own story to tell.
The old hooded man smiles. Certain of the groups skills, and talents.
Hello and welcome! This is my first short story! It's a bit rough around the edges I am sure. Was hoping to make it a bit longer, but then again it wouldn't be very short anymore wouldn't it? Anyways! Curious to see what you guys think! And hope to see you all, real soon! Goodbye~!
Thank you for reading!