Gear No. 0


In 2100, the earth has been wrung dry: no greens can be found, no animals alive except of dying mankind. Everyday and everywhere there are catastrophes fracturing earth and lives. With smaller habitat, the territory has been blurred and countries has become several autonomous Regions. To perpetuate the lifeline, people built Satellite cities in near-earth orbit but the materials and accommodating space for this huge group are long far from enough. The main character of this story, 17-year-old odd Caribbean girl, joins the Earth Interstellar Resources Administration (EIRA) and steps on the spaceship heading for new resources for almost 10 years to earn a foothold in the Satellite cities for her and her hometown, and her AI helper in the shipboard system named S956, how will their story unfold on the unknown planet? Can they exploit new energy or materials and live in cities successfully?




Roaring blaze dash into the air embracing sand and rock, and grey fly ashes cover the square with huge acoustic and blast wave. An explosion caused by ANFO had happened on a perilune planet named AF-09.


“Can’t you keep your fingers away from the firing button until I get into the airlock module, you dumb AI? I almost suffocated!”


A sharp husky scream flies out of the smoke and few seconds later, the pool operator with grubby isolation working spacesuit struggles out. Flame of anger on her face is just like the blast behind.


She walks to the reconnaissance airships in the distance and then kicks the hatch open to receive disinfection in the airlock module. Then a male voice sounds, “I’m sorry for your physical damages and the health check module’s ready if you need it, Miss Gear. And please allow me to explain the explosion process, I have no ‘fingers’, and the process was under your own voice control.”


Ignoring the voice, Gear tears off the isolation suit and steps into the living module. When passing the workbench she grabs up a can of synthetic food and then slips into her messy den.


“Wanna check out the explosion result now?” the voice comes again while she’s using a laser lancet to pierce her can lunch. After the top’s opened, she turns the lancet into a spoon to get the apple flavor protein liquid.


A holographic board appears besides her, but she waves it off impatiently. “Leave me and my synthetic delicacies alone, you vile exploiter. Scavenge in the garbage’s after the final meal.”


But the board still floating. “I’ve detected something unusual and the feedback data’s tangled.”


“Your camera is still broken? Want me to give you a fix or just put it into garbage?”


“Better to have a look at it yourself, your Majesty. Clear and complete image, but unknown element information.”


“What do you mean?” Before S956 replies, she grasps the board and draws the conclusion herself after seeing the 3D laser scanner image of the “thing”, a small piece of pink ore-like rock. “Move your butt now. I’ll bring it over.”



So the investigator Miss Gear gets into a new isolation suit and says goodbye to her lunch. When she comes back it’ll surely become her dinner because the sampling location’s far from her stronghold, the reconnaissance airship, and the small-sized air-transport has just developed a hitch last month. Before the supply fleet comes, she has to walk everywhere. As for her indispensable helper AI —— don’t worry, it will be transmitted to any of her electronic equipment through data or current, and then form an intelligent system again.


When they get to the site the dusk has come. The sky, which is filled with powder and dust, is turning  same dark pink color just like rocks under their boots. Gear turns on the night light and starts walking to the explosion pit. Soon, she finds the strange pink piece of ore she has seen in the image. After confirming that this is an element which does not exist on earth, she takes out a mini-lighter and burns the ore for a while. But nothing shows on the energy fluctuation detector.


“Anyway, a useless jewel can’t buy a ticket to Satellite cities for me.” Gear hurls the ore back  into the pit, “See? Not even a  burn or a bump. There’s no energy in it.” With numb disappointment, she turns around and starts to climb out of the pit. But suddenly, she stops and attracted by something strange —— that pink ore is not alone. With the irradiation of light, more and more minuscule fragments with pink gloss show up, scattering around the bottom. She turns her eyes to the top edge, doesn’t catch sight of the same thing. “The splinters’ re not from the surface. They were blown out from the underground.”


“And, Miss, is there a possibility that this explosion pit should be caused by 7-level explosive energy, but our handmade ANFO can just reach to 3-L?” S956 speaks from the detector.


At this moment Gear’s already realised what’s the deal. If the handmade ANFO couldn’t make such a big pit, then there must be something else that auxiliary —— the pink ore. And its power can just be activated by a certain degree of explosion. That’s exactly what EIRA’s looking for and it can sustain the cities functions.


Upon returning to her metal den Gear sends the scan data of the pink ore to EIRA headquarter. During this burning to kill the time, Gear builds a holographic model of  her own luxuriant Grandiose air alcazar in the center of Satellite cities that she’s going to move in. Ten years of painstaking and solitary digging life’s gonna come to an end, a chained soul’s finally ready to detach from this broken cage —— the mandatory com stops her fantasies. It’s a call from the headquarter.


“Hello, boss. Wonderful goods for a CONDO? Deal?”


“Eh, actually, Operator 0206. Our analysts can’t get a more accurate assay of this new element just from your modelling data. We need a complete sample.” The messenger’s words sound like inorganic knell. Maybe he’s also a hateful AI, Gear thinks.


“Then send a spaceship and take me to your lab.”


“How many sample have you got?”


“0.1 g, 2 cc.” She raises the ore wrapped in the isolation membrane and watches the translucent glare from the light.


“That’s too small. Dig for more and we’ll get them back for more examination.” The com board shuts down immediately as soon as he finishes his words. Gear skins into her memory foam sofa and finishes her lunch-like dinner in silence. After a while, she hurls the empty can into the dirty silver metallic wall and throws the laser knife- dead on target.


For the next few days, Gear uses all digging tools to take more pieces out, but fails. She finds that at that layer of this planet there’re hard rocks and sharp grits everywhere. There’s no way to reach the mineral resources underground without destruction. Besides, continuous digging machine activities cost plenty of energy. For sustainable functions, she has to bomb a pit again.


But the problem is, she has no ANFO left.


After another day of hard work, Gear drags her dead beat body back to the stronghold. Out of the hull, she sees some small maintenance robots are busy running around.


“Are you arranging a revolution now?” She grabs one of them and the AI’s voice comes from it, “No, Miss. The air filter inside was broken again when you were out. I’m going to search the fuel chamber for something that can fix it.”


Gear follows these tiny robots into the chamber. Since she landed here 10 years ago, the ship was never flown again for saving energy used by the life supporting system, such as the air filter. But the environment here’s full of dust and ashes, just like her Mother Earth, and the filter’s often out of control. So Gear has a very bearish respiratory condition. But anyway, she and S956 have to repair this disobedient machine almost everyday.


Once taking a step onto the deck of the chamber, her boots stir up a cloud of dust. No wonder she never comes here. The tiny robots roll toward the darkness leaving some tracks in heavy ashes. Gear takes a look at the dusty fuel tank, some main fuel lines connecting with the tank and extending into the closed fuel driver not far away. Inside the tank, there is the ship’s highly unstable, dangerous and explosive liquid metal fuel. Gear still remembers the day she signed up as a regular employee of EIRA and was appointed to get on this freighter-like spaceship. During the flight, the pressure stabilizer roared like a dying monster. After 10 years’ idleness, she’s not sure if the ship can take her back so she never thinks about dealing with the fuel left inside.


But for some reason, she gazes at the tank and lost in thoughts. Maybe…


“Little oaf, I think we’ve got the bomb.”


Bright flame surges up all around and the earth’s trembling. With the explosion, a lot of gleaming pink ore pieces burst out. This time, the operator sits inside the module and witnesses all these mess through a hologram.


“See? If we keep working like exquisite archaeologists then there’ll never come to a day home!” Guffawing in great satisfaction, she couldn’t wait to rush out to find her treasure in the piles of debris and rocks.


But S956 follows her out and keeps chattering away, “Objectively, the ingathering of ore’s not proportional to the risk of fuel shortage for your backhaul. Such an impulsive decision’s not…”


“Stop gabbing! I didn’t use all of it, after all. And your statistical electronic brain can’t understand the greatness of taking risks.” She gathers some pieces and holds them tightly in her hands. Through the touch of thick isolation gloves, she feels like touching the wall of Satellite cities.


“What? But didn’t you say you needed a bigger sample last time. I’ve got a lot now. Why’s mission-failed?”


“Flakes’re hard to scan. We need a relatively complete sample. Then you need to mine it for us.”


“Then just send me directional blasting device! Then I can blast around the mine veins and dig a complete pink diamond for your 101 wives’ wedding in space!”


“Language, Operator 0206. Detonation may cause chain explosion and it’ll ruin all the ore. And it’ll  sure be your duty to make sure the material’s useable. We’ll send an engineering ship to you within a universe week. Over.” The call’s hung up to Gear’s great wrath. She punches the workbench, feeling her dream yard’s crumbling and helpless loneliness’s sprawling into her mind again. She could sense the Satellite cities being pulled away from her, but not completely unseen. The roach in the dust like her always keeps a lag sparkle in her inmost heart, though it may incinerate both foe and herself.


On the sixth day after the unpleasant communication the engineering ship lands on planet AF-09. A staid man without isolated aviation suit brings 4 same-like mass production humanoid engineering robots walking out of the hatch.


“The headquarter just send 4 obtuse automata and their man-like AI leader here? So contemptuous!” Gear draws a snicker. But the man in black suit isn’t provoked and starts explaining patiently, “Actually I’m not AI. Here you see is my remote-controlling cyber humanoid for the bad environment here. My human noumenon’s still in the headquarter.”


“Then, well, substitute elite in suits. Welcome to this graveyard and hope the stinky air’s to your taste.”


The man is still indifferent to her taunt, as if he’s really a heartless cyber humanoid. He instructs the mass production humanoid back to the ship and move some instruments down there. After that, he turns to Gear and says, “Now Operator 0206, you can hand over the sample in isolation packaging bag to me and you’re allowed to use those new type of digging machine to finish your future work. They shall be easy for you to master.”


Wait, what did he say? “Future work” ?


“You mean the home-way ticket’s just for the dratted ore? What about me?” Gear feels her heart’s burning inside and out.


But the man seems quite confused about her rage. “Of course keep your mining work, Operator 0206, this is your DUTY WORK ON-STIPULATION.”


“My job shall be prospecting things you want, not be a navvy!”


“I think you may have a misunderstanding on your stipulation at the very beginning. Besides, you’ve worked here for 3658 days and 11 hours. No one can be more familiar to the geological environment here than you. You’re the most suitable key.”


A deathly silence shrouds her eyes. As I said before, even a negligible sparkle can ignite the disaster.


“Alright, let your men lift the machine to the operate well on that hillside. I’ll get you the sample.”


“Sure, And I’m waiting right here.” The man replies calmly, turns around to order his fellows.



She walks through the dust, worms back to her den of darkness and despair, and then slips into debris and waste, carefully but firm. She is just like debris. When she finally finds something to live on, the has mutlak breaks it up, treads it underfoot, and spurs her with innocent and cruel smiles on their mirror faces.


So she makes her mind to strike the match. She’s ready to burn herself.


“You said, one can’t be more familiar with this planet. That’s right.”


Behind a covert slope she raises her mini-type blaster cannon and aims it at the scapegoat’s lobe. “Smart mouse has more than one hole.”


The funeral knell rings. The fuse kindles in biomimetic liquid.


As soon as the robots on the other side detect abnormality, they stop the lifts and react instantly —— but the reflection loops’ve blocked within a second, “Miss, I can’t hold on hacking too long. Please be quick with your actions.”


“Gotcha! Once I take down the main rudder console then you transmit into the ship’s system.” Gear springs to his feet and rushes to the engineering ship at full speed. This is her only hope to escape.


The hatch’s still remained open, Gear steps onto the deck and heads for the main control room. “On your left, Miss.” S956 she hears in her messaging device.


“Seems that you still have more hands to handle?” She turns left under his guidance. There she sees a big grey heavy airtight compartment and the etched sign that’s what she was looking for. She takes out the replicate identification chip generated a few minutes ago and smashes it onto the panel. The hatch’s opened.


But at the moment she takes a step into the MCR, the outer protective gates start to go down, and static noise comes with the signal in her messenger. “What’s going on, Buddy? I can’t hear you clearly.”


“The automatic safety braking system has an online telecom. Before signal-goes off I’ll upload some parts of my auto psyche system to yo…” The voice’s completely blocked down now.


Now Gear’s isolated in this module. There’s no way back, she thinks.


S956 pulls himself out of the hacking slot and uploads the left auto psyche data to the nearest BTS. He can feel some parts of him remain in Gear’s messenger, but he’s not able to re-connect those parts of him. The automata didn’t find his track so they fired several shots towards the ship. He can do nothing for Gear but just stay in the BTS, watching her from afar.

He replays yesterday’s conversation, “I’m going to take their ship.”


“I’ve calculated your odds of survival. Honestly, it won’t be optimistic.”


“Even I’m alone, I’m still a weight on one side of the auncel.”

S956 was sure that he saw the flickering sparkles inside her eyes. But he couldn’t understand it at all, at least till now.



The STAR WINGS starts working. A holographic guidance panel rises up and maps out a destination itself. It’s L3, the third satellite citiy in near-earth orbit.


“Well, whatever, everywhere’s better than this garbage hill.” She confirms the order. The warp vortexes start up and the engineering ship begins to lift off the pink ground. But suddenly, the hull shakes and there is a slight sound of blast, then a few warning signs show up on the panel. These are some laser gun shots from those restarted automata, which means that S956’s hacking is completely invalid. With help of a safety check system , Gear finds that a blast has damaged  the port side armour plate. The port side protects the fuel cooling module.


But there’s no time for her to hesitate. She insists to pull up the brake rod and lets the ship dash into the dark pink sky.


When it breaks through the atmospheric layer, extreme darkness with insignificant glow from dotting starts embraced the porthole. At this moment, Gear finds herself shaking violently and her body’s all covered with cold sweat as if she was saved from ice water.


Countless mazy emotions pour into her mind and a feeling of debility forces her to fall onto the seat. She can’t even let out a word. Pieces of memories flash from her eyes. The familiar darkness of cosmos was seen last time when she was 17. After 3658 days and 11 hours, she meets this abyss again. She feels like running out of one abyss into another, the panel’s as black as her future. She has no idea whether the only chip she’s got left will bring her out, or lead her to painful death.


Abruptly, the holographic board catches a signal. It’s from the CP of the Satellite cities.


“EIRA Signed Operator 0206, you have been marked for illegal hijacking and attempting to bring dangerous objects with explosion risk into the Cities. Stop immediately  and turn the ADAS into remote control mode right now.”


She stares at the front with a gloomy face. “Let EIRA headquarter speak to me! I bring the new material back and the gate should be opened for me now!”


“Give up the ship’s driving sovereignty, then you can go into the negotiation procedure.”


“No way!!” Gear roars hysterically. She gives the order to move forward and scowls at the increasing shadow of the Cities.


But then the missile-locked warning rings up. At the same time, the messenger she has thrown on the panel before suddenly lights on, “Gear, the ship’s under attack risk!” S956’s intermittent voice comes out of it.


“I know, my little helper!” Gear guffaw as a madman. She holds up a package of unfortunate pink ore shatters in her hands  and then throws them all around the deck and the wall. “Shoot me, you sordid coward! Bombard me into ashes then you’ll get nothing! You shall get nothing and you deserve everything!” She runs the engine in full functions and marches up towards the Cities in a sub-light speed.


Inside the outer defensive ring CP  some of the bigwigs that manage the Cities get together.


"Commander, the target’s ready to break the first line. Shall we fire?” One of the detectors points out a red track on the direct interface and asks.


“It’s too late. The explosive wave may affect the facilities. Send a fleet of lightweight destroyers and chase it away.”


“Copy. A9 Maniple sortie now.”


With the order, a maniple size of lightweight destroyers are dispatched to sort out Gear’s spaceship. One of them tries to intercept her ship, and the other begins to frap up the net, forcing her to turn around the bow. Quickly evaluating the situation at hand Gear has to change the direction and wield the ship out of heavy encirclement. The ship keeps flipping through the destroyers, but at the next corner a star fighter emerged from the shadow likes a ghost and Gear almost crashes at it! At this critical moment, she whirls the bow immediately but she gets a vibration under the outer shell and to her worst expectations, the attack warning rings again. This time, the dilapidated  plate’s completely destroyed and the dorsal heat vent’s out of control.


The annoying warning keeps on blinking but Gear gets completely blank in her mind. She can’t get a sense of the abnormal rising temperature, the exhortation that’s far away from her mind, and a sigh from some else…


She gets a last sight of her dream home looking out of the porthole. That captivating hypnotising fascinating Utopia is within her reach and as far as ever.


The last flash blows out. She finally gets into her neverland…


The lonely AI inspects the sky and the ground outside with the electronic detection screen. He has witnessed the stars broke apart above and fallen apart in the dusty pink sky. He saw the soul being freed, and then dancing in vacuity. He knows  everything’s finished. But something still won’t let go. He’s an artificial polymer. Though trapped in soulless substance he gets a faint resemblance of a soul. So he can continue to fulfil someone’s long-cherished dream day after day, year after year. Any flow of time won’t affect  him. He’ll be the next loneliest creature, but he’ll never realise it.


“Report the scene,0711”


“Copy. The crash site’s on 123°E, 27°S. No witness, no vital signs. Diameter of the explosion pit’s reaches 57km. And there are many signs of high-temperature melting of some materials. The laves show in dark pink and yellow color. Over.”


“Block the scene immediately and wait for the Isolator investigation team.”


“Copy. The blocking works’ ready… Wait, what’s moving inside?”



“Something comes out of the… No, that’s impossible… What’s that!”


“Don’ t get close to it! Stay back!! No…!”


“Report your situation now, 0711. What happened?”


“Mayday! We ask for support! Something’s attacking us… No —— !"





The ship finally crushed on Earth and all the present ores were melted in the big explosion. But before the crush, something unseen had happened in the cabin. Inside the wreckage there was no HUMAN survivors, but guess what…? All these lamentable illusions and dramatic tragedy moulded the GEAR that pushed the door of the next 1000 years’ suffering. Human’s knell has been tolled.