Ahh…the bell has been rung, ladies, and gentlemen. Please read the following pair of storys then cast a vote for your favorite. Lisa, and Joe…a stellar job from both of you. Congratulations, and may the best writer win.
PS: At the request of one of the combatants, I’ve included the prompt below, with the two stories to follow.
The year is 2013…conditions in the U.S. have gone from bad to worse, when the big one hits the San Francisco. A 9.5 magnitude earthquake fractures the coast from Eureka to San Luis Obispo, completely obliterating the bay area. An unprecidented global event, San Francisco vanishes beneath the ocean within minutes. The falling away parallels the coastline, running NW/SE. The Rodgers Creek and Calaveras fault lines become the new edge of Northern California—Napa and Vallejo instantly transformed to oceanfront real estate.
Three miles off the coast, personnel on routine watch aboard an incoming naval vessel report a staggering occurrence just moments before a tidal wave sends their ship straight to the ocean floor.
Confirmed by satellite imagery, the White House receives word that 19 unidentifiable machines/organisms have emerged from within the crumbling strata of 3,849′ Mount Diablo, which was bisected by the cataclysm. Upon being exposed, these mysterious entities immediately dispersed, vanishing below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Playing with Science
“Mr. President, sir? I think you need to see this.” Tony Romero, Chief of Staff, extended a trembling hand toward the President, passing to him a classified, Top Secret document in a sealed envelope.
Wasting no time, the President ripped it open. With one quick glance, his face went from worried to horrified. He threw the document down to the ground and walked out of the oval office, stopping briefly to squeeze his aide’s shoulder. “God help us all, Tony. God help us all.”
A bright light flickered once. Twice. Then again, until it finally shone bright, illuminating the murky depths of the Pacific Ocean. Slowly, nine thin metal legs reached outward from the cylindrical hub, until they were fully extended and perpendicular to the sandy bottom.
Again, a flicker of light. This time, it was a red eye at the tip of each of the nine legs that began to glow. Stronger and brighter, then dimming. Repeating this cycle over and over, as if it were examining the surrounding environment.
After a few moments, a thin layer of metal covered each of the red eyes, turning them off. The legs began to extend farther out, bending near the mid-way point, reaching down towards the sand. As each of the legs drew nearer, the sand began to move, and small holes appeared. In one quick forceful thrust, the legs dug themselves deep within the ocean floor, as they continued to extend out from the hub, digging deeper and deeper.
The tender earth below began to rumble, and then shake more violently as the drilling continued. The water now churned about the hub, as the ground began to glow. Then, abruptly, the drilling stopped and the legs began to retract.
Within a short period of time a copper-colored liquid began to gurgle to the surface, seeping up from the holes, pouring out onto the ocean floor.
At this same moment in time, approximately 7,000 miles away in a hidden bunker in Xinjiang, China, a team of scientists fist pumped the air in celebration.
Sweat now rapidly fell across the President’s face, as he hurriedly ran to the bathroom in his private quarters. Grasping each side of the commode he expelled everything in him. Everything except the guilt.
He stood at the sink for a moment, staring at the man in the mirror. A tap at the bathroom door hurled him back into the present.
“Who the hell is it?” He said, splashing cold water onto his already soaking face.
On the opposite side of the door, stood Tony. In his hand, the now crumpled document the President had quickly discarded. “I’m sorry to disturb you sir, but we really do need to discuss this. And, quite urgently if I might add.”
Tony looked back down at the document. It was an article that had just gone live in the Washington Post and New York Times. An article with pictures of destruction in the west. A article, whose headline read:
At 9:05 a.m., under direct orders of the President of the United States, Operation Dig was commenced.
The large metal ship repositioned itself, so that it now floated only inches away from the copper liquid that flowed below. Near it’s base, two large cavities opened, and a bright light began to shine from within. As the light grew brighter, the copper liquid began to flow upwards into the ship. As the ship began to devour the liquid faster and faster, the volatile earth began to once again shake and tremble.
In the now coastal West Napa, a group of neighbors stood amongst the rubble of their homes. Together they walked in silence, searching for any remnants of their former life that may be salvageable. The smallest of rumblings caused one of the women to lose her footing and fall. The others stood still, feeling the subtle vibrations move up their own bodies.
In the ocean that spread out before them they saw the waves retract and pause, as if life itself had indeed stood still. Then, out of the waves climbed a large metal ship. A ship with nine legs. Then another followed behind it. Each of the beasts’ undercarriage shining brightly, as if filled with a molten liquid.
The neighbors, unable to move, stared in awe as the machines made their way up onto the broken lands, heading directly for them.
A frustrated scientist began to pound away at his keyboard. “It no working now!” Chao screamed at the monitor.
“What you mean no working? Wha happen?” Chao’s commanding officer’s face grew red as he watched the monitors.
“It like they work on their own?! The override no work either!” Tiny beads of sweat began to tumble down the distraught man’s face as he attempted to regain control of the machines.
Suddenly, the monitors went black, as did the lights in the bunker.
The door to the bathroom opened just enough for the President to peek his head out. “Tony, I can’t go in there and tell them. I just,” he paused, pulling the door all the way open, “shit, will you come in here and we can talk.”
Tony cocked his head to one side, “You want to have a meeting in your bathroom?”
“God dammit Tony, will just come in here?!”
Tony took a seat on the side of the tub, as the President stood opposite him, leaning against the sink.
“Sir, no one was aware of the order you gave this morning. What the hell is going on? The press is all over this.” Tony pointed to the article he held in his hand.
“Tony, you’re a good guy. Smart. Young. Make me a promise?”
“You cannot avoid the truth forever, John! Now, what the hell is going on?!” Tony stood so that he was now face to face with the President.
“I made a deal with the devil. Never do that. That was the promise I was going to ask of you,” he turned to examine himself once again in the mirror, “It’s not what they promised. I would have never agreed had I known the outcome.”
Tony shook his head in disappointment. “You want to talk in circles and not be upfront with me? Fine. But, you are going to have to deal with this. They are calling a press conference in 20 minutes. You will be there.” Tony flung the door open and stormed out of the bathroom.
Lined along the newly formed coast stood machine after machine. The neighbors had not moved a inch.
The first of the machines to reach land now crept toward the woman who had fallen. Her breathing became labored as one of machine’s legs lifted off the ground and extended itself, coming within an inch of her eye. The tip began to glow red and the woman screamed out in terror.
The others watched in horror as her whole body begin to glow. The woman became so bright, they had to shield their eyes from the light.
When her tormented screams subsided and the machine moved away from her, they expected to see a limp, lifeless body. But what they saw was something that for the third time today, they could not explain.
The woman, now covered in a metallic armor, stood with her eyes glowing a bright red. She began to walk towards them, smiling. One by one the woman quickly converted her fellow neighbors from man to machine.
“Who turn light off?” Chao yelled as he bumped his way around the bunker in search of a light switch.
“They turn off on their own.” One of the scientists said, as he too stumbled blindly in the dark in search of a flashlight.
All of a sudden the computer monitor came back on and staring back at the men were two bright red eyes.
Reluctantly, the President left the safety of his bathroom and made his way to the podium for his speech. He closed his eyes briefly before lifting his head to look into the cameras:
“I talk to you today not as your President, but as a weak man. A man who made a pact with the devil. The horrific events that have unfolded before our eyes today in the West are not the byproduct of Mother Nature, but of an experiment gone bad. An experiment that I agreed to. For the first time in our history, we were able to drill past the mantle on the ocean floor, drive past the thick gabbros and reveal the innermost layer of our world. This layer held great promise and apparently, tremendous power.
This experiment came with great consequence. So great, that if I had known the magnitude of destruction that would have occurred, I would have never agreed to it. The machines, now full of this molten liquid, threaten to destroy our existence.
I know you are watching and listening today with hope. But citizens of a once great nation, I cannot help you,” The President reached into his coat pocket, pulling out a gun, “I’m afraid we have played with science and now science is playing with us. God bless you all.”
In the distance, a dark cloud could be seen making its way toward the Nation’s Capital. The President smiled at the darkness, as he raised the gun to his head.
The chaos was mute, the screams and fire and death were silent, unheard by him.
Insectile clockwork of unholy creation roused him from his slumber. On this planet and in our time he had slept nearly ten thousand years. Now the horrible clicking and incessant chattering innards of the nineteen monstrosities reverberated again from beneath the waters off the newly formed coast of what was Napa Valley. Freed by the quake, they resumed their work.
The world as we knew it burned and crumbled above him, civilization undeniably headed for a new dark age. The rise of warlords and times of fear and magic, a world quite similar to the home of the creator of these nineteen mechanical abominations. Pearlescent black and deep cobalt blue, scurrying on legs and with wings articulated by joints of bright gold and silver, fascinating in complexity and enormous in size, they started construction.
These nineteen demons, spilled from the giant cavern hidden inside the ruined Mt. Diablo had a horrible and singular purpose. They were programmed to build a portal in time, a gateway between worlds.
The miscreant bugs were sent by a malevolent force of evil known only as The Darkness. The beings responsible for sending the counterbalance were the polar opposite known as The Council of Kings. These entities are the force in the universe keeping the balance of good and evil. The Council, from across the oceans of time and space fielded their answer to the insect menace. This answer now stirred beneath the waves, Radjer, from an eons long sleep slowly regained consciousness. The sound of the nineteen beasts calling him back once more.
Radjer shifted his heft beneath the rock that entombed him for thousands of years, and instantly, seismographs around the world erupted in a fury of wildly swinging needles and rolling drums of data wrapped in scribbles of black ink indicating what had to have been an aftershock of the “Big One”.
It wasn’t an aftershock, it was Radjer, called back from his ancient slumber to put a stop to The Darkness one more time.
He shook off the blanket of ocean sediment and rock in which he was covered and planted his feet on the sandy seafloor. His eyes broke the ocean’s surface. The sun glinted brightly along the copper and silver tinted metal covering him, a metal alloyed with alchemy as it was neither tarnished nor scratched after such a long life. In the distance the sheer black cliffs of a newly formed island, nearly ten miles square, played host to the unnatural construction of the insects.
The island cut into the sky, jutting forth from the sea in unnatural and terrifying angles. Four gigantic mechanized beetles worked upon its surface, grading, and shaping the ground as they worked their enormous horns and massive bodies along the sand. The other fifteen out gathering materials.
Radjer watched them working. Two more creatures, resembling bullet ants emerged from the sea and scaled the leading edge of the island carrying titanic slabs of rock from the seafloor, attempting once again to construct the dimensional gateway on Earth. He was created to stop them but not destroy them. He was there to put them back in the ground, it was his reason for being, and it wasn’t the way of The Council to extinguish life, no matter how abominable.
The bugs would wake every few thousand years either by their own strange cycle or as in this case, geologic calamity.
Radjer woke only when the bugs began their construction anew. Always to stop them and imprison, never to destroy, never to end them.
During a previous battle the dimensional portal the bugs worked feverishly to construct reached an advanced level of completion. Five enormous obelisks towered over the land arranged in the shape of a five point star surrounded by arcing rings more than a mile high. If The Darkness constructed such a large portal on Earth it would inhabit our planet and its own planet simultaneously, spelling doom for the human species on an unfathomable level. Other planets have fallen in exactly such a way, most recently the species that inhabited a planet in the Rigel System in a neighboring part of our galaxy.
The world struggled collectively to comprehend the early reports of enormous insects pouring out of Mt. Diablo, the earthquake and ensuing chaos rendered the entire region empty, those souls that had survived the quake and tsunami snapped and uploaded pictures and video through social media of horrific and giant monsters in the distance, images and videos that could not possibly be what they appeared. Titanic stone shafts assembled by hellish beasts. They flashed across every television screen on the planet until the survivor’s phones ran out of life and the pictures and flow of information stopped.
Satellites in orbit beamed back the impossible to the leaders of the world’s governments, talk of nuclear weapons came up immediately. They had no clue the weapons of which they spoke couldn’t harm the clockwork monsters even if their destructive power was multiplied by ten. The force driving those gears and spinning their cogs was conjured from the most ancient and darkest of places. Twisted sorcery forged in the depths and darkness of what could only be defined as Hell.
There was only one force in our reality that could stop the construction of the gateway.
Lightyears away when measured in our primitive conception of the universe, The Council watched Radjer ponder the giant pestilence erecting their unholy work. They looked into their own gateway conjured through knowledge of magic handed down from The Creators. Huddled around their gate, fashioned in the shape of a hexagon and in the center a brilliant orb of energy, our world’s events visible within. They saw a planet reeling from the massive earthquake and an entire species aware of the existence of living nightmares busily crawling along the surface of their planet. Dread fell heavily upon all humanity, the citizens of Earth contemplating that they were no longer masters of their fate. If those hideous insects completed their construction, an eternity ruled by a malevolent god awaited all. Like the beings lost to The Darkness on the planet in the Rigel System, humans would enter eternal bondage.
Over the six-sided grouping of their shared power, The Council used the small portal in time and space to watch the insects construct their own giant gateway at the behest of their evil lord.
The Council delayed, contemplating their next move. The time passing in their realm flowed much slower than on Earth and work on the gate set about by The Darkness sped along at an alarming rate. Immense metallic wasps buzzed noisily above Radjer en route to the island, carrying entire forests in their alien claws. Fodder for the construction of the tilting arcs spanning the monolithic dimensional gateway. They seemed much more powerful and swift, and rightfully so. The Darkness was engorged with the souls lost in the Rigel system and transmitted unprecedented power from its hidden vantage to the machines it controlled.
The Council did not destroy life, no matter how malformed. Radjer’s task had always been to subdue the insects, disable them, open a rift in the Earth with the tools he possessed, cast them in and seal it. He was never to destroy them.
Radjer was, after all, just a machine, a creation of The Council and any machine enchanted by the Council to do its bidding was always made self aware, to give the creation the choice to serve or not.
A stark contrast to the mindless drones working on the gate and the damned souls controlled by The Darkness.
Radjer was no exception, he agreed with The Council but as he sat waiting to act, he caught a different magic in the air around him, human magic. He heard voices, millions of them, small and terrified speaking of the end of all things and cursing their gods for not acting. They were the collective transmissions of information encircling the planet nonstop. All telling the same story, beseeching the heavens for help. This instant communication was something entirely new to Radjer, giving him insight into the mind of humanity.
The Darkness is without age, it came before The Council from the time of nothingness. Made up of many parts but most frightening of all, formed only one monstrous consciousness. It consumes those it enslaves so completely that they are no longer individuals, only Darkness. Locked forever within indescribable emptiness, something they were never created for. It reaches in and takes the most precious element in our universe, the energy of a living soul inherent in all children of light, seeking to enslave it, to bend its will to serve only The Darkness. Then it moves to the next world to continue the conquest of all sentient beings. Just as on the planet in the Rigel System, where The Darkness and its machines succeeded in completing a gateway, allowing it to move in and feast on them all without remorse.
Months passed on Earth as The Council deliberated and discussed, during this time Radjer not only listened intently to the reaction of the world through their broadcasts, but accessed and studied the collective history of the species through their indigenous magic known as “The Cloud”, he saw such creativity and beauty and such savage brutality in them.
The gate neared completion.
Radjer grew impatient, he also sensed that the new stronger incarnations of the mechanized insects, now equalling fifteen busily constructing the portal, would not be easily subdued.
The normal plan of disabling and burying them would not work this time. This time they had to be destroyed. The Darkness within them physically and forcefully had to be removed.
The Council sensed his thought and in an instant voted to let Earth fall to The Darkness, the only option was to destroy the insects and the Council simply could not take life.
They couldn’t but he could if he dared.
Radjer’s thoughts returned to the humans and their panicked cries, they knew that whatever those demonic creatures were building wasn’t good. He felt something else as well…a connection. What were these poor souls but children of the Light, creations no different from him? The Council and all those who served them were so far removed from the feeling of what it meant to be human, long since evolving past such primitive fears and emotions, that killing was no longer an option.
Deep within Radjer’s enchanted soul born long ago from the elements of a distant star, something snapped. If he had one, it could be the sound of his heart breaking, followed by a rush of pure, hot, righteous anger. He was sent to protect Earth and felt responsible for the humans in spite of their many faults and failures. They were at the core made up of all that is good in the universe.
Radjer saw his entire body glowing, awash with bluish-white electricity coursing over him. He looked down through the water at his right arm, the cannon for melting a giant hole in the Earth to deposit these loathsome creatures was alive with energy. Inside, opposing turbines opened minuscule portals in space pulling energy from the exploded star he was created from. He pulled his giant arm from the sea and from it a large blade of pure alien energy curved upward in dancing white tongues of flame.
He couldn’t let it happen.
YOU WILL NOT HAVE THIS WORLD OR THESE BEINGS!
His words bled over all communications globally, the humans heard him speak. They knew that their prayers had been answered. Their hope poured directly into him.
Radjer burst from the water, sword drawn. He took aim at the largest of the now nineteen insects driving the blade deep within its shell, the clockwork gears frozen forever.
He cut a giant white swath across the sky and prepared for battle.