The Gaian Devolution is saving the planet. By exterminating the people. But global warming is only getting worse and technothrope Chairperson Flora B. Harper is out of solutions.

Onder Swart is the last Khoisan in the Southern Africa Exclusion Zone. He wants to return to his homeland and live a natural life with the ragtag gang of children survivors he’s collected. But the Gaians have declared it a human-free animal preserve. Their robots patrol its borders with deadly force.

Onder meets Astrix, an ailing visitor from the forlorn genius gulag that is Space Station Independence. They work up a scheme to seize control of the Gaian System and free both their peoples. But the Gaians are using Onder’s epidemic-resistant DNA to complete their master plan and wipe out all humans with their worst plague yet. There are no guarantees and anything can happen.

Human Free is a dystopian science fiction novel by George Donnelly. Read a new chapter several times per week FREE at GeorgeDonnelly.com/HumanFree

Chapter 1

Onder Swart gazed at shark fins gliding in circles in the milky turquoise surf below. He toed the loose, black rock, loosened a chunk and stepped closer to the edge. He pushed the hot chunk off the edge. It landed on a shark’s head and three of them scrambled to grab it, their teeth glinting in the harsh sunlight.

One step and it’s done. No longer will my children die. No more will Philani nag me. No more will I lack food. No more will I fight robots just to enter my homeland. I will be in the ultimate homeland and in need of nothing.

He firmed his left foot at the very edge of the cliff, his toes curling and extending in free air. The ledge shifted under him. His right foot he extended out over the abyss. He sucked in breath and held it. He leaned forward.

A plump bird, its belly white, a black strip painted across its eyes like a pirate, alighted on Onder’s shoulder. Onder stopped, stepped back and eyed it. It stood on just one leg. The other hung crooked, a dark gray blotch where it was broken. The precious creature shifted its weight to try the leg, slipped and returned to balancing on one leg.

He stepped back twice more. He reached his opposite hand across and grabbed the delicate creature. It cheeped and struggled. Onder tightened his grip. He examined it and shook his head. It won’t survive.

“Onder!”

Onder closed his eyes and frowned. Food again. Do they never stop eating?

Slim and tense in her loincloth and ragged gray t-shirt, Philani slapped her sandals against the smooth rock, her teenage hips rocking from side to side in a display of feminine dominance. Her confidence impressed Onder but deep inside he laughed at her pretension of womanhood.

“The children need food!” she said.

“Give me a strip of cloth and help me tie it around this one’s leg.”

Philani narrowed her eyes and stepped closer. “We will eat it.”

“No, we will save it and eat its eggs.”

“But we need food now.” She put her hands on her hips. “I won’t do it. Your children must eat.”

“They are not my children!”

A hollow boom echoed from far away. Three dark balls rose from the scrubland a kilometer inland.

Philani screamed, her face a frozen mask of fear, acute yet fatigued. Onder pushed her to the ground and threw himself on top of her. He sheltered the bird in the soft space under his chin and looked upside down back towards the ocean.

A dust cloud scraped at his back. He jammed shut his eyes and mouth and pushed air out of his nose. Philani sobbed, her body quivering beneath him.

“This land is human-free by order of Chairperson Flora B. Harper of the Gaian Devolution. Move back now or face relocation.”

The dust subsided. Onder positioned himself in front of Philani’s prostrate body and hid the bird at his lower back. It pecked at the bare skin of his buttock and he startled.

He faced the translucent machines, their metal skeletons shadows inside their plastic bodies. They were angry, always.

The children cowered behind large boulders thirty meters to his right. Twenty-nine of them, including three infants and one teenager – Philani – who kept the last non-Gaian people of Southern Africa together and relatively happy.

Are there non-Gaians left on the other continents? Onder only vaguely knew other lands existed but he worried about this question.

Two more robots shot up into the air as balls and unfurled into four-meter-tall humanoid figures before landing nexting to the children.

The children screamed and hugged themselves, forming a mass of frantic arms, jockeying legs and exposed eyeballs.

Onder stepped forward. “Stay away from them!” he yelled.

One of the robots hopped at him and landed centimeters from Onder’s toes. The cliff cracked and shifted under him. He pinched the thin young man’s shoulder between his silicon fingers and lifted him.

Onder met the robot’s deep green eyes. Only lenses, for the Gaians and this Flora Harper to see through. Onder passed the motionless bird to his other hand, slipped his knife from its sheath at his side and jammed the sharp steel into the monster’s eye.

The beast did not react. The blade slid off the lens and Onder’s hand slammed into the hard glass. He flinched but refused to let the Gaians – the people who killed his parents, everyone he ever knew – see him in pain.

The robot pinched his shoulder tighter. Onder screamed and the bird fell out of his hand. He twisted to see its fall but the pain pulled him back. The robot brought him up to his eye.

“You can not injure me, human. As you do not submit, you must be relocated.” Its mechanical arm whined as it pulled him back ever so briefly towards his homeland, then hurled him over the edge of the cliff, his legs kicking, his eyes wide and the salty smell of the sea rising to greet him.

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