Avatar

The Last Sons of Mars: Part 1 (Fan Creations)

by iconicbanana, C2-H5-OH + NAD, Portland, OR, Monday, March 30, 2015, 15:31 (3341 days ago) @ iconicbanana

Against the dead sun the shattered halls still stand,
And dead Charlemagne dreams dead dreams in silhouette;
Visions come to him of hamstrung Phobos,
Stabbing the wounded atmosphere, impossibly low.

The dead king’s visions are a sifting murmur in the sand,
Whispers in a gale, a plaintive howl and he is gone,
Recessing and waning, waiting to be born,
Dead Charlemagne dreams.

***

The noon sky above was an overwhelming, cloudless blue; from the slopes of the Martian Alsatians, cool breezes blew down, cutting the hot sunlight with a pleasant chill. Clovis Bray gazed out over the Bay of Magellan; the breeze tousled his grey locks, kissing his leathery skin. He closed his eyes, breathing deep, then looked up into the blue beyond. The day was perfect.

His reverie was interrupted by the nettling tone of his sub-cerebral tether. “Clovis, we need to begin termination prep. It looks like we have significantly less time than our initial estimates.”

Bray ignored the inhuman voice as it vibrated his mind. High above him, great flocks of gulls were fleeing outward, sailing above the bay and beyond toward the ocean. The thought that the totality of creation could vanish seemed…delusional. Absurd. He stood quietly, and the wind gusted, whipping his lab coat and the long fronds of grass on the mountain’s gentle slope.


***


“/Soft landing in 50 seconds.”

The static crackled and died in the roar of the Phoenix’s drop compartment. The bucking turbulence of the small craft’s descent was in strange juxtaposition to the four inhabitants of the dim, red-lit bay of the personnel carrier: stoic, decked in translucent black armor, their faces obscured by gloss black cages. They did not speak, communicating via cerebral implants, and feedback mirrors built into their helmets.

“Do we have any intel on the event, Boss?”

“Almost none. From what ComSSD can tell us all fail-safes hard activated and scrambled on the extra solar perimeter. Than everything past Io went dark.”

“Do we know how long it took to cascade from Deep Seed to Jupiter?”

“There was no cascade.”

“Shit!”

“Either the rings were bypassed or it’s moving faster than anything theorized.”

“How long ago was contact?”

“Twenty-two minutes.”

“So why did it stop?”

“Whatever advance was occurring ceased at the belt.”

The static of the cerebral adjutant hissed. “/Soft landing in 10 seconds. Activating bay doors.”

The floor of the compartment parted with a hiss and folded away seamlessly in the roar of sudden atmosphere. The dark surface of Mars rushed up to meet their feet as the retro-fire of the bird’s entry systems boomed and thundered out over the wide Martian plains. Active-Rappelling kicked as the Phoenix slowed to a stop twenty-meters from the surface; as the chords spun out they decelerated their charges, setting the four marines roughly on the ground and disengaging to snake back up into the dropship. The Phoenix was already accelerating upward into the black sky above.

“I thought it was eleven-hundred hours?”

“It is eleven-hundred hours, Trigger.”

The sun was hanging near its meridian, but the azure of the sky had turned black; the sun itself was disappearing, shrinking, as if Mars were falling away from it down a deep, vertical cave. The entrance of the facility was a hundred meters up the gentle slope from where the marines landed. A white-frocked technician was standing half way between them and the entrance, staring up into the abyss as they drew up to him. The static alert in their tethers hissed. “/Adjutant identifies Clovis Bray, Head Researcher and Site Executor.”

“Doctor Bray, we need to get to Charlemagne. Per contingency VOLUSPA.” Bray stared upward, his eyes filmed and opaque, his mouth slightly ajar. A heavy, futile hand on his shoulder: nothing.

“/Adjutant confirms brain function has ceased. Doctor Bray is dead.”

“The fuck,” mumbled Belfast. He turned to his corpsman. “Bohem, Trigger: drag him inside. Servo, quit admiring the beautiful day. We need to get to the primary server bay.”

***

Mars was pitch-black as the blast doors closed behind them. The primary gravlev rose up to the entry platform of the wide, concrete silo that dropped away below them. The two lab coats on the gravlev raced to the marines as the platforms docked, taking Bray from Bohem.

“What the hell happened to him?”

“/Adjutant identifies Miriam Bray, Contingent Site Executor.”

“You have him as we found him, Ms. Bray,” replied Belfast. He raised a hand to quiet her as she attempted a confused reply. “We don’t have time. We need to access the primary server bay immediately. We need hard decommission per VOLUSPA.” He walked past her, across the platform to the lift controls as the marines joined the technicians on the gravlev.

“Adjutant, route us.” He ported controls to the adjutant and turned back to Miriam as they began to descend down the silo. She was kneeling, the prone form of Clovis before her, his head on her lap; lightless eyes stared upward, his mind shattered. “Are you up to date on procedure for Skyshock, Ms. Bray?”

“Complete decommission, yes?” she murmured back, disinterested; her long russet hair hung down over Clovis’s face.

“We need you to take us to him. We need on-site execution of the fail-safes to decommission.”

The gravlev halted at the bottom of the silo. Belfast’s tether sparked. “/Adjutant confirms ComSDD is down. NeVDD is down.” Belfast looked down the single corridor before them.

“Adjutant, how deep are we?”

“/Confirm. 3,015 meters from the Martian surface.”

“Is it possible Sat-Surface Relays are receiving interference?”

“/Negative. ComSDD and NeVDD are confirmed terminated. Channels remain open.”

***

“It’s just down here.” Miriam Bray and Belfast reached the end of the short corridor, arriving at the diamond-shaped door of the Seraph; 20 meters behind them, the silo of the gravlev went black at the same time as Belfast’s HUD. He shrugged off his helmet and dropped it to the ground, activating his BioTorch and bathing the pair in cool green light.

“The Servbay has internal reactors,” explained Dr. Bray, raising her palm to the security biotelemetry. Belfast removed his glove, doing the same. The door pulsed, and the triangular quadrants of its blast shield spread apart, revealing a descending stair, down to a claustrophobic steel-frame catwalk. White strobes dimly lit the interior. “Hope you remember the schematics. Good luck Commander.”

Belfast stepped down to the stair, looking back up the corridor. “Trigger, Servo, let’s move!” As the bobbing green lights of their torches began to swing down the corridor, a rush of atmosphere swept back up the silo, like a vacuum; Belfast caught the handrail, wrenching sideways. Bray screamed as she was swept up the corridor, rushing after the lamps of the two marines as they were sucked up the silo into darkness. The quadrant doors of the vault snapped shut.

***

Belfast wandered downward; scrambling, stairwell after catwalk, silhouetted in the dim gloom of skeletal lights, and the wet green of his torch’s fluorescent algae. The pathways he’d committed to memory were interminable; he ventured downward, unsure whether the steps he’d taken were correct, unable to know in that labyrinth. The right path was obscuring, through some strange subterfuge; even knowing it, Belfast wasn’t sure he was in any way on the correct course.

No matter how he searched his goal eluded him; eventually, he thought himself lost; then knew it. He wandered until the dim lights faded and his lamp sputtered and suffocated: some force beyond comprehension squelched them in that void. He grasped in profound darkness, his eyes naked but trivial, and finally insanity gripped him, and the reason for his searching became a mystery, as the darkness found him.

Then by chance he reached the core: the great vault door stood before him, an onyx gateway. The darkness around him was profound, and he stood before the monolith without comprehension of it; his mind was broken. He reached out and it opened, the violent brilliance of a star shining before him, and he groped outward into it.


***

The embers of atmosphere swirled, dissolving in the broken day; the sky was half parts day and night, a waning firmament and a vibrating starscape, a permanent twilight at high noon. Fierce winds blasted across the surface, kicking red dust into the air, and the sun gleamed violet in the dying throws of terraformed Mars.

He lay on his back, startling awake, staring upward into the burning cosmos, gasping in the dying breath of the burning heavens. On his elbows, he gazed outward over the boiling oceans as they dissolved into the ether. On the horizon, a city was disintegrating, wreathed in the rising pillars of smoke and ash that would soon bury it.

“/Can you hear me, soldier?”

He started to his feet, whirled around to look for the voice. “Where are you?”

“/I’m in your mind, soldier. But I can’t find your name, or mine.” He paused, staring out over the burned world.

“What are you?” There was a pause, and the voice returned.

“/I am unsure…a voice and mind like your own. Before you were here I perceived only darkness; now I perceive, I think, what you perceive. What do you see?”

“We’re in a wasteland,” said the soldier, dropping to one knee. “How did we get here?”

“/Then I perceive as you do: and more entirely, I think, your thoughts as well; and I possess knowledge of your species and history. Beyond that I cannot say.”

He stared out, toward the burning city.

“/If I am correct, and this planet is mars, than that is the City of Freehold. You are astute in thinking we may find shelter there.”

The soldier rose and collected himself. There was no course but to follow the voice, and started forward across the burnt desert. “What should we call each other, then?” The voice seemed to contemplate his words.

“/Perhaps a name from your histories.” It rested on an answer. “I wish to call you Bayard.”

“Sounds fine.” He paused a moment. “And you?” This time the voice did not hesitate.

“/Naturally, I would be Renaud.”


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