Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Avenging Dawn

Here's a short story I had in my head, its slightly more in my head visually than discriptively on the page but still I like my little title graphic...

Welcome to a reality alternate to our own. A future myth: where hopes of wonder breathe, yet so doth human nature breed…

A lone shooting star streaks across the clear night sky. Muttering from the crowd of villagers turns to sounds of awe, as the astronomical event bursts into life. One of the celestial bodies in particular draws attention to its self as it grows brighter than its counter parts, then fades.

Distant thunder echoes through the peaceful valley, followed by a deep threatening rumble. The people huddle closer together in their family groups, as to defend themselves, the best they can, against the impending cold. The sound of a howling wind begins to strengthen over the incessant background noise of insect mating calls, though everything around them was eerily still. The howling then transforms into an unearthly high pitched whine.

An explosion of light discloses the celestial vessel descending upon them. The villagers scatter every which way in blind panic as the whine turns to a deafening roar. A second concussion overwhelms many, who stubble to the ground with their eyes clamped hard shut.

Sods of dirt and burning plant matter rain down on them, as rich orange flames now lick the tall crop field near by.

Charred and tattered vegetation crackles under the gentle imprint of a feminine sized white space boot. Flt Lt Miller Lee, according to her name tag, cautiously scans around, before entering a small burnt out scar, deep within the field. It was clear from the lack of activity the locals were in no hurry to search for any survivors. Though she wasn’t too sure whether this was a good thing or not, having heard many a story, of dangerous indigenous creatures managing to survive, even on highly terraformed planets; unlike this one.

Miller stoops low as to not make a sound in laying down the weight of her bulky space helmet. Her heightened senses then detect some hidden movement; out of tune with the rhythmic swaying of the crop and the intermittent flapping of torn parachute. “Shit.” She pronunciates under her breath. Miller draws her sidearm and clicks the safety off, as footfalls begin to rail towards her with worrying speed. They then stop mysteriously. A spilt second of silhouette draws her aim upward into the glare of the sun. Blinded, she stubbles backward and snaps at the trigger. A terrifying screech cries out and within an instant, a rush of dust filled air hits her face.

A fierce raptor like creature now increases in detail from a blur of shapes and colours before her. The stillness of its blank yellow stare making her relax. Miller moves closer and runs her hand along its surprising smooth scaly skin. Its dagger like claw then takes a swipe at her. She leaps into the air like a startled cat, thinking how stupid she had been, but the creature remained on its side. As it was still in the early stages of rigor mortis, another twitch from muscle memory, causes her to turn away in disgust.

Taking a moment, she holsters the sidearm, adjusts her dishevelled ponytail then throws her head back to gulp heavily from a flask. Cool water soon begins to trickle wastefully down her neck as she stands frozen in the position she had just made. A fresh sound was now approaching from behind her. Miller draws her sidearm again and spins back around, dropping on to one knee.

Her eyes target on the outline of a camouflaged figure amongst the crop stems, then focuses on the barrel of a gun. “Stand down Lieutenant!” A close cropped man with a furrowed brow calls in a hushed tone. The barrel slowly lowers once the slightly panicked looking Miller had done so first. “You’ve been trained to squeeze the trigger when firing, then again keeping your eyes open helps.”

“The sun got in my eyes....Sir.” Miller counters as he inspects the creature.

“They’re crafty beggars. Looks like an adolescent.” He looks up to her from crouching over the beast, with the weight of a backpack unbalancing him slightly.

“How’d you know that, Sir?” Her voice poorly veiling a bitter sceptical tone.

“I had a bigger one for breakfast.” He grimaces at her arrogance, seeming he had just saved her life a matter of a few seconds ago. “Unless they’re a difference sub species...”

“...Oh god! What about the locals!” Miller interrupts and turns to look around. “They would of heard the animal cry for sure.”

Hunter scratches his stubbed jaw. “Its ok, Lieutenant.” She subconsciously notices how he was maintaining protocol more than usual. “There are enough creepy crawly things on this planet to sink a battleship, one less, is of no ones concern.” He pauses. “Just keep your voice down.” Hunter picks up the discarded helmet and goes to gather supplies from her escape pod. “I doubt you fail to see the irony.” His voice sounds strangely distant.

With an unreal shift in gravity, she is suddenly back in the cramped cockpit, tearing out of hyperspace and careering straight into an asteroid field. Sirens and lights blaring over the sound of heavy breathing. Glimpsing momentarily from the controls; to see the calming blue arch of a planet, dead ahead.

Miller shakes herself free from the vision and breaths in to ask a direct question, then changes her mind at the last moment. Somehow, whatever had happened, they had survived. The irony, which he was speaking of, was that manned fighters were being phased out to reduce the risk of loss to human life. Though the off hand comment had, by now slipped her mind completely.

“You up for a swim?” Hunter airs cheerfully though his brow didn’t even raise an inch.

“What about this?” Miller nods generally to the escape pod.

“We’ll eat it.” Hunter replies flatly. She squints then realises he must of thought, she meant the creature.

Once making sure the coast was clear, they crossed a narrow dirt track running along the edge of the field and down towards a secluded area of thick reeds on the banks of a lake. The valley had clearly been carved by a glacier many eons ago, leaving the valley sides sparse and rocky whilst further down rich jungle grew to fill the flood plain. Which had then in turn, been later cleared for agriculture use. Now somewhere in the depths of the lake, the Falcon lay waiting.

“You want to swim or just walk it in your suit?” Hunter questions whilst securing a line around a dead tree stump.

Miller checks her gauges. “I’ll swim.” She then proceeds in taking off the space suit and catches him goggling her figure, in the tight black under skin.

Hunter hands over the bulky scanner in his classic aggressive manner. “It’s a few metres out and a few more down.”

“Remind me again, why I am doing this?” Behind her, in the distance, mist was rolling majestically off the lake. For a moment he is lost in her soulful brown eyes.

Hunter then frowns more than usual at the strangely photographic vision before him. “Because I out rank you.” Miller catches the other end of the line, tossed at her.

She had thought of suggesting that it would be better doing this kind of thing at night or dusk, or similar, but she hadn’t and this fact was frustrating her further, as she tried to keep above the water and read the scanner attached to her forearm, at the same time. There could easily be something in there with her, swimming around, ready to gobble her all up; but at the present she was too self absorbed to care. After double checking she delved under the surface.

The visibility was poor, claustrophobic even, which didn’t help matters. Yet much as an ego boost, a familiar and reassuring, angular outline soon emerged from the murky depths. She attached the line with ease but then found it hard going in comparison to sift through the light silt. Finally her hand threw the manual override switch. At which point, bright orange floats deployed and inflated. A subsequent large movement displayed by the silt takes her off guard, causing her to panic and race to the surface. The harder and faster she swims the stronger the feeling grows that something is after.

Hunter couldn’t really hear anything of what she was shouting as she waved her arms. He clasped his hand to his ear comically in reply, “I can’t hear you!” till she disappeared under the water with a jolt. “Fuck!” The world instantly closed in on him as feelings of guilt, despair and a deep longing for her ran down his spine. Something large bursts out of the water where she had just been. The white water and spray then disclosing the double tennis pitch sized Falcon bobbing around on the surface like a Picasso sculpture with arm bands.

A frustrated metallic clunk is heard. “Well?” Miller pouts, reclining against the dead tree stump.

“We’ve got primary systems.” Hunter scrutinises the instruction booklet.

“But?” She sits up, slightly put off by the fact he wasn’t goggling her anymore.

“The engine drive is shot. If we took off, we wouldn’t make orbit before being irradiated, that is…” he runs his hand over his head; “…Or suffocating to death. Take your pick.” He throws the booklet over his shoulder. “Wouldn’t make much difference anyway, we don’t know where we are, so we ain’t going anywhere soon.”

“I thought you said we were in a Dredge system?” Her eyes narrow. Dredge were solar systems deemed uneconomically viable and generally used as dumping grounds by others; hence the close encounter with an asteroid field. Though naturally some were in employment as secret military bases, stroke criminal hide outs, stoke illegal colonies, et cetera, et cetera.

“Yes either one of ...” He licks his lips. “...The variations are insurmountable.” He takes a swig from his flask as a static feeling fills the air. He offers her some but she shakes her own flask back at him, touché. The hum from the Falcon becomes audible now as it slowly begins to hover and level out. “Well on the upside, we don’t have to walk anywhere anymore.”

“What’s that?” She points ahead to a strange looking object on the path ahead of them.
Hunter slows the Falcon to a stop and jumps off. “Stay here.” He grabs at his empty holster. “Here give me your sidearm a minute.” He strides over as Miller looks around. He soon returns covering his mouth and gaps for breath.

“Are you alright?” Miller questions with amusement. “What is it?” She then questions with more emotion as she catches a dry rancid smell in the air. ‘Hydrogen sulphide?’ She notes to herself before focusing on the object; it was a horrifically blackened and pathetically crumpled figure of a child. “How could that happen?”

“I’m not sticking around to find out.” Hunter comments visibly weakened as he gets onto the Falcon again.

“You frown even in your sleep.” Miller’s gentle whisper is almost drowned out by the sound of dripping water.

Hunter squints seeing her bathed in a shaft of flattering dawn light, perfect as ever. Being a press officer, it seemed strange to him that someone so beautiful had chosen to be on the opposite end of a camera, as it were. The reality was all too simple, he could read her like a book. Though granted it sounds melodramatic, he knew she must have had killed a civilian by mistake, he could see it in her eyes, and from that point on, she swapped a gun for a camera. Funnily enough, to him everything was painfully, all to simple. “I have a lot to think about.” He finally responds, with breath filling the dank surrounding air.

“So are you going to tell me?” She gets up to sit next to him.

“Ask her.” Hunter grunts idiosyncratically then rolls over.

A green icon soon winks invitingly from the screen, after a systems check. “Computer, bring up all data logs within the last twenty four hours.” Miller commands whilst adjusting the headset within the cramped confines of the cockpit. A substantial list scrolls downwards in chronological order, one of which, stands out from the real of numbers and abbreviations. “Computer, read to me the conclusion of Research File.”

An artificial female voice responds; “CONCLUSION!” Miller turns the volume down. “...FOREIGN DNA DETECTED IN SUBJECT...”

Miller reads ahead. “Damn it...Stop. Computer, stop!” She takes off the head set and throws it in anger, causing it to immediately rebound and hit her in the face. “Ouch!”

“Who’s is it?” Hunter scowls standing in the dappled shade of the overlying camouflage canopy.

“Its... it was James’s.” She airs from within the cockpit.

Hunter’s face relaxes as his shoulders drop. “Right.”

“Wait a minute. What’s going on here?” Miller questions, with her head popping out in the small gap between the Falcon and the canopy.

“There’s a volcanic fisher under the lake. Due to the depth and nature of water, gasses released by the fisher have so far been absorbed over many years. But the pressure is now at a critical level.”

“So its seeping out from under the lake.” Miller replies clambering out onto the wing.

Hunter nods then glances away. “The Computer predicts an natural disaster, the gas will explode with a force equal to that of a couple of nuclear warheads.” He turns to start walking away. “We are advised to reach higher ground.”

Miller jumps the last step from the Falcon. “What about the people?”

He stops and turns back around. Miller notices how dramatically differently he physically looks. “I doubt they would listen even if...” The ground begins to quake under their feet. “Oh God, Prep the ship, I’ll get our stuff.” Hunter staggers off as Miller struggles with the canopy.

It was an almost surreal sceptical below them. A pyroclastic flow raging upwards with alarming speed. Wiping out everything in its path. At one point they both backed away from the edge unwilling to trust the computer, Hunter eventually taking the opportunity to put his arm around Miller to comfort her.

The dark cloud however soon began to collapsed in on its self and sink back down again. It took much longer for the dust to clear, slowly disclosing the carnage in a red haze. Carcasses and trees strung haphazardly, the surroundings gaunt underlying bed rock and the lake its self a thick brown from consuming the valley.

Five years pass.

“Look there’s a new star tonight.” Miller notes in an intellectual tone running her hand through her child’s hair.

“Where?” The little boy’s eyes widen following her aim to a constant white point.

“That’s no star.” Hunter replies wiping food from his beard.

“A planet?” The child inquires.

“It’s a ship!” Hunter looks up from the green glow of a scanner screen. He hurriedly begins to pack up but clearly not in any form of an ecstatic fashion.

“What’s wrong? Its good we’re saved.” She stands pulling a strand of hair from her mouth.

“We’re behind enemy lines.”

Her jaw drops, as the child looks on. “What?”

“From our last known position and vector, I had been able to extrapolate that we’d been thrown into a unstable system somewhere deep in hostile territory.”

“I can’t believe this, why didn’t you tell me?” She airs waving her arms about.

“Because I didn’t want to worry you.” He looks at the child and puts the backpack on.

By morning, they had scurried up to a hardly accessible ridge with good all round vision hidden by long grass and shaded by a twisted old tree. Over the hours, despair that they may be forever trapped on the alien planet was beginning to counter the encompassing fear of the enemy. Hunter spots something through his binoculars, movement in a clearing, on a nearby wooded hillside. The figure clearly stumbling slides to a stop and balances as a cloud of dust settles. “Lee…” He whispers, but his voice is too weak to carry. At first he thought it was a soldier in an environmental suit, until he fully noticed how disturbingly emaciated the figure was. It was some kind of military droid the likes of which he had never seen.

“Keep quiet.” Miller’s voice sounds quieting the child, who by now had become boisterous. Hunter freezes as the robot turns its head and pans out through the clearing. “Come here” The little boy slips through her grasp and runs mischievously away through the tall grass. “Come here now.” Miller calls crawling after him.

The droid stops panning and stares straight at Hunter. “Oh boy.” The droid remains deadly still, then disappears again, back under the carpet of green.

Miller gasps as the child grabs hold of a white leg. Another droid looks down momentarily before continuing up the hill limping slightly due to the extra weight.

“Hold it right there!” Hunter shouts, aiming through the long grass at the machine, which was practically on top of him before he realised.

“IDENTIFY.” A familiar artificial female voice orders in the same, cold disjointed manner.

“Peacekeeper Wing Commander Daniel Hunter, Six, Eight…” The Droid interrupts him whilst he automatically spews out his number.


“HERE SIR.” A second droid replies as Miller slowly stands up next to it.


“James.” Hunter replies absentmindedly, which the child responds to and runs over to him.

“WHAT HAPPENED?” Hunter simply shakes his head slowly.

The Peacekeeper Flagship, SS Parabola disappeared, leaving only a few pieces of debris and garbled distress signal.

All of which transpired to have come from a lone fateful escort fighter. Apart from suspected enemy intervention, the true cause still remains unknown. 924 Crew missing, presumed dead. Survivors 3.


As always I haven’t got specifics however, the idea of a volcanic fisher under a lake causing it to explode is not fiction, it has actually happened, more than once.

For example, a similar thing also happened along the same lines, in which the gas seeped out and suffocated everything and everyone in the valley, however it isn’t as half as dramatic as the lake exploding, now is it.

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