Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta emergency. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta emergency. Mostrar todas las entradas

viernes, 13 de noviembre de 2015

Dark enemy

   When the doors finally closed, everyone who had gathered in front of them just looked to the ground. They slowly went back to their duties in the palace or to their new houses in the lower levels, where they had been accepted just some hours ago. Another door that had closed was the one of the throne room, as the emperor had demanded to be left alone as he had “a strategy” to think about. The truth was, and everyone knew this, that the enemy was coming fast and that it couldn’t be stopped. It had been announced that they would destroy everything and everyone on their path and that’s why many had found shelter in the palace. The idea was that, as strong as the enemy was, they behaved like a group of buffalos. They charged until they hit something and then they moved on.

 The funny thing there was that no one really knew anything about the enemy except what people coming from other towns said. They were called “survivors” as they always arrived on the verge of collapse and they all had the same story about how awful and terrible the enemy was. However, despite been able to describe how their own tows burned and how people had been killed, they couldn’t tell anyone about the general aspects of the enemy. It was strange, but it was as if they had seen a shadow destroy all of those towns. No physical traits of any kind had been revealed, only the way they operated and that had been scary enough for everyone to take shelter in a building that was normally reserved for the rich and noble. That said a lot about their fear.

 The palace was a structure built in ten concentric rings, the highest been the one where the emperor lived and the lower ones where his staff lived. There were also some sublevels, normally catacombs used as prisons and to get access to a subterranean river. All of that space was now been used by the families that lived in the town and that had been allowed to come in by order of the empress. She was the one that was doing the most. Her name was Serena and she even went down to the sublevels and helped people build a house in the many rooms and spaces that had been only populated by rats for several hundreds of years. Her husband, however, was too scared or apprehensive to do nothing.

 No one knew if he had seen the enemy first hand or if he just felt this was the end of his reign. He had been emperor for fifty years; since he was a very young boy and this was the first time someone defied his power. And the truth was, he was very scared about it. Specially because there wasn’t a single man in the entire kingdom that could tell him anything useful about the enemy. No any general characteristics, not a weakness, not even the way they killed. It was true he was planning and working on the problem but it was also the truth that there was nothing he could really do about it.

 In the lower levels, many families tried to create the feeling of a home but it was practically impossible. Many of them were staying in rooms that felt too much like a prison and they soon realized that if the enemy didn’t walk through town but instead came to the palace, they would be trapped in the catacombs. The only way out was through the underground river but no one really knew how to navigate it and not everyone would be able to use the only boat that remained there. It was said that many of the emperor’s servants had escaped on other boats, leaving only one in the docks. Many children of these refugees loved to go and play in the docks as it was the only place that felt different and worth exploring, even if it was as dark and moist as the rest of the sublevels.

 Life in the upper levels, however, rapidly went back to normal. All the people working for the emperor resumed their work: they cooked big feasts for the few members of royalty, they made fabulous robes and they even brought in objects from the outside by specially trained hawks. They brought jewelry from very far cities and also delicacies that the king always liked. But the empress wasn’t too impressed by this. She was actually revolted by the fact they were eating a five-course meal as the people in the catacombs had only some bread to feed their children. She tried to protest before her majesty but his aides wouldn’t let her, as she would disturb him greatly. They didn’t want to bother him as he drank his beer.

 Serena decided to go for a walk around all the levels and wrote on a piece of paper everything that she saw that was wrong: too much water been wasted on plants in the gardens, a whole level dedicated to keeping his majesty’s clothes cleaned and perfect, the vaults of money and jewels been filled everyday despite the industry and commerce coming to halt, the closure of the market that had always worked in front of the main entrance, the fact that the his majesty’s guard was very numerous but there were only a few men guarding the first wall that would prevent the enemy from coming in and many other things. She actually ran out of paper as she walked along the edge of the wall, looking towards the town where only ghosts lived now.

 But she realized she was mistaken. There was smoke coming out from one of the houses chimney. She asked one of the few guards for how long that smoke had been there and they said that since the time the people of the town entered the palace. She concluded then that someone, maybe an entire family, had decided to stay behind and leave their lives as always. They didn’t care about the enemy, about wars or even about their emperor. They just wanted to keep living and Serena admired that. She asked her husband to let her go to the town, but his answer was obviously negative.

 But Serena wasn’t really one to wait around for others to approve. She had always been rebellious and she had always been curious about her marriage to the emperor. Despite having even younger sisters that were a lot less trouble, he had chosen her to be his wife. He said that it was because of her hair, which reminded him of wheat. But it had to be something else, or so she hoped. One night, she slipped out of her room and disguised herself as one of the refugees. Her handmaiden had gotten the clothes. Serena descended through secrets stairs and hallways that only a few knew about and finally reached the market in front of the entrance. There, she had to run through the square and reach a dark wall on the other end. There was a secret passage there too but the soldiers could see her if she made too much noise.

 She stopped first to calculate how to cross the square and then breath heavily in order to get herself pumped up. She then ran for her life like a mad person and reached the dark wall in seconds. It was strange that no one had seen her, as the moon was particularly bright, but she moved on. The tunnel she was walking on was very humid and full of moss. She fell a couple of times before reaching the end of the path. The tunnel ended in a small room, right in the middle of town. It was amazing no one knew about it. Serene walked out of it slowly and looked at the sky, looking for the smoke.

 The house she was looking for was just a couple of streets away. She walked slowly but not really trying not to make noise, as supposedly, there was no one in town. When she arrived at the house, she knocked. Maybe it had been a bold move but she really didn’t have time to play around. No one answered so she knocked again. Then, she let out a scream as someone pulled a curtain and looked out. Then the door opened and scared faces looked straight at her. There wasn’t one family living there, but two: three adults and five children. They recognized her and that was why they let her in. They were visibly nervous and she tried to reassure them but it was a lost cause. In the end, it was pretty reasonable to be scared and jumpy after been through so much.

 Serena was about to speak when the ground started to tremble. Everyone pulled back from the door and the walls and ran towards a hatch on the ground. Serena didn’t. She was too curious, too urged for the truth. She walked to the curtain and stood still, looking through the window, not even moving. The tremor grew stronger and then, what felt like hundreds of boars passed in front of the house. They were huge, with big horns and red eyes. They destroyed everything outside but they passed fast. She breathed again but it was too soon. Something else was coming down the street and she had to cover her mouth in order not to scream and reveal her position.


 In the palace, they finally realized something was wrong. But it was too late as the moon revealed what was happening there, in the town. And it also revealed that the palace wasn’t safe because, whatever was causing the ground to shake was coming their way. It was only a matter of minutes before the boars overran the market square. And even then, watching it all from his room, the emperor did nothing. Not even thinking about his wife.

martes, 23 de diciembre de 2014

Antares

   Aslana was reclined on her chair, barely looking at all the screens she had in front of her. She had been commissioned with surveying a barren part of the Cosmos no one really cared about. Neither did she, but it was her job and she complied. After the first hour, however, she had bored herself to death by watching the screens with practically nothing showing.

 That had not been the idea she had had when in college, trying to decide what to do next. Antares space station was hiring but becoming an actual astronaut also interested her. People saw them as adventurers and explorers and she wanted that, to feel that she was doing something special.

 She decided to become an astronaut and went to Star City, near Moscow, to become one. With at least fifty others, she trained hard for a whole year but at the end of the process only ten were finally chosen. It had been decided they were the only ones fit for space travel. Aslana was not chosen. Her performance on skill and intelligence tests was formidable but the physical demand of the career had proven a bit too much for her.

 However, her tutors had recommended her to the Science Academy of Moscow, who were about to open a new observatory orbiting Triton, near Neptune. The observatory was located, funny enough, on Space Station Antares. So she had wasted a whole year of her life to do almost exactly what she had thought of doing when coming out of college.

 And now, there was Aslana, sitting on her chair, legs up on the dashboard, looking at Triton through one of the many windows in the space station. Antares was home to about five hundred people and its builders were already trying to get the permission to build another wing to it and get five hundred more to come and live almost at the edge of the solar system.

 Aslana enjoyed it sometimes, and other times she hated it. She loved space and she hated people there. They got to be so annoying, judgemental and hypocritical. Well, there were some people that were very kind and lovable too but they weren't a vast majority.

 Suddenly, an alarm made Aslana fall from her chair. The sound had come from the dashboard, which she hadn't been looking. To be honest, she had fallen asleep for a couple of minutes, tired and bored at the same time.

 She sat down again, combed her hair with her fingers and started tapping and clicking and writing. The signal seemed to come from a quadrant of empty space. Of course, it was not actually empty but nothing really big seemed to be there. Yet, the alarm had been set off.

 She ran all the tests, to know if the signal was actually foreign in origin or a Earth signal bouncing between the stars. After a half hour, she could certify that the pulse, the call if you will, was from deep space. No human had traveled there. There was a science base in Haumea and that was it. That was the farthest place humans had gone from home. But this signal was from deep space and, somehow, it had reached Antares.

 Aslana aligned every dish available towards the quadrant from which the message was coming. The pulse got weak at some point and then strong again. It was like the people, if that word could be used, were having problems keeping up the strength of the pulse.

 When the woman activated the audio machine, she let a loud squeak come out from her mouth. The sound was awful, it was like if a thousand bees and wasps had suddenly entered the station. She screamed because of the volume, which was unusually high. She thought that, for sure, someone in the station might have been woken up by the sound.

 And that reminded her. She should report what was going on immediately. The machines were all recording the event but she needed to send a message to Earth, for them to check the message out. Very large telescopes had been built on the Moon, capable to trace the message more accurately that what little potential the Antares station had.

 - Moon base Tycho, this is Aslana Tromaterova. I'm in charge of the observatory for the night. I have    detected a pulse coming from this space. I'm sending the coordinates encrypted in this message.          Please check. I'm monitoring the event. All tests have been done. Waiting for instructions.

 She sent the message, which would take several hours to reach the Moon. Meanwhile, she started playing with her audio machine to clean up the noise she was hearing. Aslana moved every knob, button and switch and listened carefully. After a while, she thought she had heard something, like a mumbling. She did her best to clean the sound with the computer, but, of course, the distance had disrupted the signal and it wasn't coming clean.

 Then Aslana remembered a class she had received at Star City, when an old german professor had taught the everyone how to clean sound and video feeds coming or going from space stations. He said it would help tremendously on occasions of distress or emergency. One thing he had said was that sometimes video could help clean sound waves. The sound could be translated by a screen and then cleaned properly.

 So Aslana did just that. One of the many screens helped her accomplish something she thought would have been impossible due to the circumstances. After two hours on it, she had finally cleaned the pulse. And the woman was very nervous, unsettled.

 She had not thought of the signal to be dual, to be sound and video at the same time. But it was. Aslana realized she was the first person in History to see the face of an extraterrestrial, a being from another planet. They were different, true, but she could see humanity in them, in their eyes and behavior.

 There was some data being sent on the video feed too. It was on some other language but she could conclude, from the video and some of the statistics, very similar to human ones, that they were on a ship. And that this ship, was in deep trouble. Some of the creatures seemed to be controlling a fire and others ran in several directions.

 Then something happened that almost made her fall from the chair again: the creatures spoke towards the camera, probably asking for help. And Aslana cried, realizing they would die there in the middle of nowhere, only been heard by one human woman so far away.

 The woman cleaned her face and decided to do something useless: send a message. Judging from the distance between her and the quadrant they were calling from, Aslana knew all of them were already dead, probably for many years, maybe even hundreds of years. They had died alone, horribly. So she wanted to honor them by sending a message. She thought her words carefully and then sent the message, which she later sent towards Earth with all the data relating to the event.

 It was important to her to do this. She had been alone half her life and, with this gesture, useless maybe but sincere, she wanted to tell anyone hearing that they would never be alone, not while there were others around caring for their well being.

 When her shift ended, she spoke briefly with her boss and told him she was very tired but that all the data had been sent to Earth and was saved in the station's main hard drive. The boss granted her her wish and, as she laid down in bed, she realized she still had a life in front of her and that she could do whatever she wanted with it.

 - My name is Aslana. You will never know me and I will never know you. But I wanted you to know    you have a friend now and I hope I have one or many too. I'm a human and is probable you won't        understand what I'm saying. But I trust someday you will. And when you do, I want you to know        that we,  I, will always be here for you. We are now bound to each other and I will try my best to        keep this  promise. Sorry for your loss.

jueves, 13 de noviembre de 2014

It came from us...

 - The place is deserted.
 - It is a desert, after all.

Lin and Allan had been inside the crashed craft for over an hour now and there were no signs of survivors to the crash.

The day before, radars had detected the ship near the planet. Several times the people at Jongjin base had attempted to establish contact but the ship but hey were unable to. Then the ship appeared to lose all stability and fell into the planet.

A scientist and a military officer had been sent to check the crash site. No living beings were onboard. From the look of it all, it appeared as if the ship had been empty all along but that was impossible as radars and other technology had verified the ship was on a strict course before they stopped and fell into Katf II, the second planet in a system not far from Earth.

Both astronauts came out of the ship and entered their vehicle, a four wheeled rover that could travel as it would in Earth. The atmosphere was similar but not breathable. As they traveled back to the base, two hours away, they started talking about the possible reasons the ship was there and why it crashed.

Suddenly, the wind started to blow, getting stronger by the minute. The vehicle had to stop and, in these cases, the astronauts were required to raise stay still as storms normally moved a lot and it would be soon be away from them.

 - I'm so hungry.
 - Didn't you eat before leaving?
 - No, I had to submit my report on that rockslide on the far side last month. Pain in the ass.
 - Did someone got killed?
 - No, but...

But Lin didn't know more of the matter. The wind, that had formed a tornado of sorts, was moving away from them. What had impressed Allan to the point of being rendered speechless was a figure that had appeared from the other side of the storm, it moved slowly but towards them.

Lin realized about it too and grabbed the binoculars that they kept between the two seats. She could see what the creature was: it seemed like a man with a limp but its looks were far from that. It was made of something green and seemed to be furry. Furry...

 - What is it? - Allan asked.
 - We need to get to the base, now.

She restarted the vehicle and pressed on towards the base.

Once there, Lin asked for an emergency meeting with the top minds and chiefs in the base. They were all there in a matter of minutes. Allan was the last person to arrive. He approached Lin and said something to hear, almost in a whisper.

 - May we know the reason of your call, Ms. Lin? We have things to deal with.
 - I know and I'm sorry to call you like this but it is urgent.

Lin asked Allan to turn off the lights and then presented to the audience with a video, apparently footage made with a handheld recorder. The video depicted a woman in a lab. She seemed very intelligent but very worried too. She said that she worked with a company from Earth that dealt with biogenetics and related topics. Her duty was to study all pathogens that could affect humans but that her bosses had asked, in a top secret document, to start the creation of a special virus, a strong one, able to resist any plague.

To her own surprise, research and its costs were not a problem and within a couple of years they had a prototype. Unfortunately, the experiment had worked all too well: the virus had proved its resistance to everything, even to humans. When scientists decided the project was too dangerous, the virus took possession of several members of the scientific body, killed them.

The female scientist said that their last opportunity was to send the virus to the Sun, so it would be destroyed for good. They shipped the virus in an automated craft and launched it but they soon realized they had failed. They realized the virus had taken control of the ship.

She finally stated she did this video for the people to know the company wanted all record of the virus erased as it was "no longer their problem", as the craft it inhabited had left the system.

When the video stopped, the lights turned on and Lin explained the video had circulated for years amongst scientists but everyone had thought it was best not to mess with it all. Until now.

Lin explained that her and Allan had witnessed a creature walking towards them in the desert, limping and deformed. Checking the data they had gathered on the crash site, she realized the ship may be the one carrying the virus.

One of the men laughed and said it was all ridiculous. He said that, even if was all true, the possibilities of the craft with the virus landing in Katf II were very slim as larger planets would have attracted the craft.

Lin responded by telling him that her team had been investigating a life source near the crash site. An oasis of life on the planet. The creature seemed covered in moss, similar to the one that grew in that oasis. She theorized the virus had gotten close to it for water but then used moss to form a body.

Suddenly all lights went off and the red emergency ones were on. A voice in a speaker told everyone on the base the exists were now closed and that everyone should remain calm.

Allan approached a computer and logged on the security cameras on the outside. They all scanned the images until a woman from the mining commission yelled "There!".

On a camera registering the outside of the parking area of the base, they could see a creature resembling a man but with no face or fingers. It was banging at the door, possibly attempting to go in.

Then, everyone's cold got ice cold: from the "belly" of the creature, a face came up, that of a man. And the man screamed. And they knew all was lost.