by Michael L
Explosive Sci-Fi epic, through the eyes of one man to prove his love whilst the End looms.
|A Damned Terrene
In the far reaches of deep space, enshrouded by absolute darkness, a damned world hurtled on a destructive path with a velocity incomprehensible to man. Despite a chemical composition akin to Earth, containing a majority of iron, oxygen and silicon, living organisms had perished eons ago. The atmosphere of carbon dioxide, methane and sulphur dioxide generated by crust displacement caused super-volcanoes from shifting poles had long since ravaged the suffocating planet. These symptoms caused dreary and sombre orange cloud formations around the grey rock, stripped barren of earth, with frequent violent eruptions of scorching magma. A trail of debris lingered behind, as though a deity was trying in vain to restrain it. The size was formidable; almost two times the diameter of Earth and on a collision course.
It soon shot past Neptune, a gaseous sphere of dazzling blue clouds contrasting sharply to this diabolic mass. Planet X beckons. For the demise of life on Earth.
- Space Telescope Science Institute (Maryland, USA)
“I wouldn’t mind if the Apocalypse happens two years on y’know, we’re past our primes Jef, soon we’re gonna coup up in our homes leeching off Gov. pensions…”
“Yeah I guess…” Jeff replied but not feeling any consolation from Alan’s pitiful attempt to comfort him.
The two government astrophysicists waited impatiently as the supercomputer processed the eagerly awaited images from the Hubble Space Telescope. Years ago, a detector, scanning routinely for Near Earth Objects (NEOs), predominantly for asteroids, stumbled across a suspicious object on a supposed path of collision. Further readings and calculations with backing from leading scientific communities confirmed that SOMETHING loomed up there. However, government intervention immediately led to layers upon layers of secrecy for they realised the implications if the object was proven to truly exist. And thus, the World Leaders laid out a certain project in anticipation of the worst case scenario…
In due course, the supercomputer completed its task and the screen finally revealed a picture of Neptune, still hard to distinguish as the ocean blue planet but nonetheless it. Not surprisingly to the scientists, there was indeed another mass never seen before in close proximity: Planet X. Alan studied the image thoroughly but there was no denying it. He unexpectedly strolled across the chamber to a table, grabbing a glass of Champagne poured beforehand. Raising it to Jef, his eyes gleamed through the thick lens and an eerie smile formed on his features,
“To Armageddon my friend…” Alan announced then drank the beverage…
A series of calls and meetings ensued; the plan for continued human existence was laid out. For the first time in mankind’s history, the leaders of the human race put past their differences and came together for one goal. The intended project was reviewed and tested thoroughly by specialists in all fields, of all races, from every country. Astrophysicists, botanists, economists, biochemists all co-operated under the government’s watchful eye on Project Caelum with secrecy to the general public being paramount.
Throughout the aerospace industry, radical reformation took place in the form of heavy government subsidies for the production of the parts required for Project Caelum. One such place, located in an exclusive expanse in an inconspicuous English town was the factory that spearheaded production, employing the most labour and used the best technology humanity could offer. It went under the façade as a semi-conductor firm but was in fact ran by the American aerospace firm Lockheed Martin and the British BAE Systems. The professionals and specialists resided in typical English cottages close by under an oath with the local populace not suspecting deceit. Grand oaks surrounded the complex in awe-inspiring beauty whilst a vast biodiversity of wildlife thrived outside the industry’s concrete wall. Greenery flourished in the form of acres of austere grass. Within the ordinary and stereotypical exterior walls was a chamber seemingly of a different world; anechoic soundproofing technology in the form of thousands of pyramid pieces lined the walls whilst in the centre, sat machines of extreme complexity. One could note, from viewing this, was that Project Caelum could possibly a revolutionary weapon, or perhaps a ship.
By 2011, the mass population remained content, albeit slight rumours of conspiracy had emerged across the world but were silenced accordingly and the evidence annihilated. The project had reached its final stages and the government planning and expectations had been satisfied. The authorities thought that they had succeed in maintaining human existence due to the development of new technology to build Project Caelum but little did they know that a more formidable barrier awaited, the human race itself.
In spite of the colossal terror that lingered imminently above Earth and the feeling of insignificance being one within seven billion others, a human stood out above all representing all the virtuousness and righteousness that race is capable of. He was most definitely important, a faint but sturdy beacon of mankind’s innocence amidst a sea of malevolence.
In a bustling, typical London Avenue, surrounded by terraced houses, a BMW M3 Coupe drove past the roles of stone houses in a street lined with other opulent and lavish vehicles. The driver inside was a young man in the late 20s, dark, hazelnut hair cut semi-short and cropped. He wore a pair of designer glasses, tailor made suit and was speaking with passion through a hands-free set. Despite this, Jonathon Brooke still had an easy going and relaxed feel. Working as an investment banker in the London branch of Goldman Sachs, he was a middle-class arrogant man with a wife but still relished the life of being single and loved his things top of the range.
It was close to midnight; John was returning home after a night of partying with friends in a lavish west-end nightclub. He had left early not for the reason to return to his no doubt impatient wife but to his favourite hobby of astronomy. You see, he had purchased an amateur telescope so that he could indulge in the pleasure of gazing at Supernovae, Quasars or other galaxies.
Parking his car besides the kerb outside his house, a detached, brick and large modern style house with five bedrooms, John casually got out and made his way past their humble little gate towards the front door. He whistled a light hearted tune as he entered the house but was faced by his wife with a piercing gaze sharper than a sword. Looking nervously in her eyes, John thought that he could feel her probing his conscience and he shifted uneasily and smiled feebly,
“Um… How’s the day been, Eve?”
Eve Brooke stood up and strolled over to John in a posture that radiated dominance and authority but at the same time hatred.
“My mum’s birthday was today, she came all the way from Scotland to see my ‘husband’. You forgot didn’t you?” She hissed in a tone that chilled John to the bone.
Despite his best attempts to hide his shock and surprise, Eve could read John’s expression that the event had escaped his mind when his friends had suggested the prospect of a nightclub. In frustration, she sighed and paced into the living room before shouting back,
“There is no use talking to you John, every important occasion, you somehow forget, I do not care what excuse you have now… I’m gonna go stay with my sister, perhaps it’ll give you time to take our relationship seriously.”
With those stern words, Eve strolled into the hall dragging her luggage behind her and made for the door with cruel haste. After one last disapproving look at John, she turned to look at the ground, flinging her dazzling blonde hair into the air and then disappeared down the path. He stared into the night sky dumbly, John’s friends had once jokingly called him insensitive but now he understood why. Making a mental note to reconcile with Eve in the morning when she had cooled off; he hurried round his house to the basement and retrieved his telescope, still shiny despite the years in use.
Pouring some coffee into his thermos, John hurried out with his belongings back to his car and drove north, further out of the vast metropolitan city. He eventually arrived on an expansive field of grass upon a hill, a notorious location for keen astronomers but none came as late as John. He scanned the surroundings and smiled at the tranquillity, no human, no disturbance and above all no light but his small torch. Setting his telescope on a sturdy patch of mud, he unfolded his chair then sat down and eagerly peered through the telescope. His charts and notes rested on his laps and soon John discovered the North Star, Saturn and Jupiter. John’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Something was wrong. There was an unidentified object close to Jupiter, the orange shade made him think of Venus but it was impossible. Frowning in utter confusion, he studied the Heavens with more precision but it was the undeniable truth that something existed there…
A few hundred metres away, a black-clad figure lying on his stomach with a pair of night-vision binoculars made a sharp movement for his radio. John Brooke had fallen into a web of conspiracy and mystery with the spider closing in…
“Can you prove what you saw to be the absolute truth, John?”
“Yes of course, I have written a report and have photos which I’m faxing to you right now; perhaps one of your science correspondents can refine it.”
“In that case, fax it over and I’ll have a look, certainly sounds peculiar…”
Adam Payne, an influential editor based in London, ran his hands through his course black hair in anticipation. He trusted John Brooke, they were good friends since college then Cambridge University, so when John called that day claiming an unidentified object near Jupiter, he became curious rather than ridiculing John. Soon, the fax machine hummed into life and the documents were soon transferred to Adam. After a brief, superficial check, he frowned at the picture, certainly authentic, and then exclaimed,
“I think you’re right John, this is interesting, if all goes to plan, you should see it in Friday’s paper.”
However, the editor had a deep, unsettling question which he decided against questioning John: How could an amateur astronomer beat the technology at the disposal of proper astrophysicists? A deep uneasy sentiment aroused within his heart but he shrugged then said,
“Alright, have a good day John, bye.”
Meanwhile in RAF Menwith Hill, an ECHELON employee reached for the phone by his desk. He had heard everything.
The night was serene. The evening was an everlasting blanket of burgundy and black with only the moon, illuminating vivid moonlight, poised within the darkness. The blaze lit up the alley, surrounded by archaic and destitute concrete walls. A cobbled path ran through, the stone worn and drowned by a murky pool of sewage. There was a slight, bleary mist looming in the air, the end of the alley was obscured. Adam Payne strolled down the alley in confident steps, his loafers tapping out a harmonious rhythm to shatter the silence. A fat cigar rolled on his rosy lips, the abhorrent smoke wafted gently by the light zephyr. In his field of vision, there was a figure shifting into view. The fog cowered and acquiesced in its presence as it made bold steps towards Adam, as if a man with an utter determination to complete a task. The editor flinched slightly at the black-clad and hooded person gleaming with despotic authority. Summing up his courage, Adam maintained his composure and resumed his journey but the being continued towards him with a sense of murderous intent.
London was generally calm that night, it was mid-week and the general population slept early in preparation for gruelling work. Perhaps some may have heard a grunt in a downtown neighbourhood, or perhaps not...
But at meanwhile, in another suburban area of London, three men in dark attires crept out of a typical white van towards a detached, brick and modern house. They wore gloves and balaclavas and one carried a sinister suitcase.
John arrived home later than normal that day; complications in the bank and the urgency to run several errands. Weary and downcast from the trips, he parked the gleaming car unevenly besides the curb. Looking up to the darkening sky, he glimpsed a streak of radiance amid the devouring darkness, a comet perhaps. Discreetly, from the deepest chasms of his heart stirred his purest sentiments of longings for his wife. The torment had shattered his very soul like glass with only Eve’s love and touch able to make his spirit whole again.
With no mercy, he was launched off his feet by a divine force of deadly resolute. John further exhaled violently from the strike on his chest and felt true fear for a split second, forsaken in the air. The world seemed to suffer with him as the willows wailed in agony at the branches fracturing off like severed limbs. Upon feeling a sudden icy spike on his back, John sincerely believed that he had been impaled but soon slid onto the pavement finding it was the edge of his car instead. He opened his eyes to an immense sphere of light in front which focused to be a turbulent inferno slithering out of his house’s roof and windows. The garden was bathed in a flaring orange hue, but the structure of the house continued to moan in defeat as timber beams incinerated to ash and stone walls weakening to the fervour. John stared in outright astonishment at the construction collapsing into smoking rubble. His home, his shelter, destroyed.
When a human loses his haven of safety and comfort, primal instinct compels one to the brink of insanity.
Ignoring all injuries, he scrambled up onto his feet, eyes wide and the pupils frantically scanning the district for further dangers. John’s breath was laboured and beads of sweat trickled down his temple and splashed on his jacket in eerie rhythmic thumps. The sound unleashed the demon within as adrenaline hormones were released in earnest. His facial feature formed a rampant and savage expression as John clawed his way into the seat of his car…
Breathes were heavy and forced as oxygen continued to run scarce. His suit was a crumpled mess soaked in his own sweat, and his muscles twitching in the tension built by his own paranoid mind. The car keys rattled in his shaking and uncontrollable hands as John tried in vain to start the engine. The sensation of insecurity expanded uncontrollably until it consumed and ravaged his soul. His head twisted left and right to scan his surroundings like a pendulum as his hair bounced on his forehead. Firing the engine, he slammed down upon the pedal and released the clutch, yearning to escape this mess. The paranoia intensified as John imagined cloaked figures surrounding him, looking through the windows. There is no escape from the authority.
The vehicle strained then growled into life, roaring fiercely with madness as though it was a prey fighting for his right to live. As the clutch was released and the gear shifted into first, the animal turned off the kerb, leaving a legacy of smoke and fleeing the scene…
“Target lives, proceed to phase two.”
A black car rumbled to life, the subtle noise, a low rumble, merged with the silence than puncturing it. The beast was but a shadow on the streets; no lights and no reflection. Proceeding in the wake of the BMW, the phantom predator pursued with efficiency and stealth, lurking on the corner of the streets whilst observing the motive of the frantic prey then bolting to life to cover the distance. John could not notice a thing. In the mean time, an obscured shape loomed in the sky, steadily but surely approaching the site of the explosion. The top of the object was slicing through the air whilst a figure could be seen slumped by the open door, cradling a black object and slotting a clip into the handle. Except for those, the helicopter was at one with the ensuing darkness.
John had no aim. His directions were propelled by instinct as it naturally attempted to drag him as far away from London as possible into the countryside. However, it played straight into the predator’s hands. The streets of terraced houses were long gone; fields of wheat and farms replaced that sight. In the city, he had a chance of assistance. Out here, he had none. The pursuers carried out their operation. A window was rolled down and a sinister object extended out…
Bullets impaled the glass as though flesh was stabbed with a knife. In an ear-splitting collision, shards and shrapnel dispersed onto the backseat. John yelled in exclamation and unwillingly swerved the car to the left, diving into a wooden fence. Splinters of wood shattered against the bonnet and bounced up the windscreen. He intuitively raised his arms in a protective stance but further lost control of the car, ploughing from the fence and leaping down the ditch. The occasional clang from the firearm maintained but the predator was hard pressed in hunting, hurtling into the fence too and switching the glaring headlights on. They watched the BMW, submerged in an ocean of wheat forcing its way through in a random direction. It was at that moment the helicopter soared overhead, surveying the field and following the tracks to locate their target.
Cruising through the farmland, John knew that the helicopter lights would be cemented to him with little hope of shrugging it off whilst the assailants’ car would draw closer thanks to their superior horsepower. Eventually, they traversed the wheat field and John approached a hill, leading up to a dual carriage-way. Gritting his teeth and flattening the pedal, the BMW was launched up and flitted through the air, over the barrier and onto the tarmac road.
Despite being midnight, one driver, drowsy from a lack of sleep, reacted too clumsily. His headlight blinded John through the window as the Mercedes detoured in an attempt to avoid him but clipped the boot of the BMW nonetheless, littering the road with fragments. Spinning like a wheel, the brakes could not hold back the revolutions of the car as the tyre rubber burned before a helpless Ford Fiesta drove head first into the driver’s door of the forlorn vehicle. The Ford spiralled into the air, catapulted across the tarmac as though a boulder and landing roof first by the hard shoulder. The driver of the Mercedes received the entire force of the Ford dying instantly as his ribs collapsed and drilled into his lungs and heart whilst the car continued to spin for a few yards. Glass, components of doors and engines were distributed across the carriage-way whilst smokes from small fires in spilled petrol areas rose up to the moon. Eventually, the Ford, which received the most severe damage from the frontal collision, exploded in a fireball with the passengers trapped inside.
The pursuers leapt over the mound at that moment when tendrils of flame and shockwave lashed out from the burning wreck, dangerously close to damaging the black vehicle. Despite scratches from shrapnel, the armoured and bullet-proof glass held and the driver, having seen it all before, recovered immediately to resume the chase. Accordingly, John focused back on his task as well after the brief awe at the bloodbath and sent the BMW through a breach in the barrier before continuing down the road. He soon realised that he was travelling in the opposite direction and swore when the BMW narrowly avoided a car speeding past, horns blaring to warn John. Several more pairs of dazzling light missiles manoeuvred out of the way and, with relief, disappeared out of sight.
“If I do hit them, they will literally be missiles…”
He muttered under his breath in frustration but concentrated harder as he avoided another close shave with a Peugeot. When the situation cooled down somewhat, John began to experience the sedating sensation of fatigue, feeling his muscles relaxing and heart rate slowing. The occasional astonished drivers sent John’s body hyperactive and into alert but he felt safe and optimistic. The assassins were forced to keep their distance behind; John’s headlights blocked out the lights of incoming cars, reducing the time of warning for the weary driver. Thanks to his direction, he could not scrutinise the signs to reveal which junction he was at and a bullet was buried in the smashed screen of his GPS. Except for the everlasting round patches formed by the lampposts, the night prevailed and he judged that it was still at the peak of midnight. Upon gaining position in his gruelling battle with exhaustion, John soon realised that he was approaching the M25, the motorway which surrounds the entirety of London. It was a thriving road and indeed, the amount of cars had increased. Sleep-deprived drivers frantically spun left or right whilst John drifted in the opposite direction to avoid a collision. The sound of brakes, screeching tyres and horns was deafening as more inexperienced drivers clipped other automobiles and it was only a matter of time before there was a fatal pile-up…
Fortunately, John had avoided most dangers and was driving up to the roundabout. There, he could go in the right direction and hopefully escape before the pursuers extract themselves from the devastation of vehicles. Behind him, several cars could not recover from evading John and consequently slammed into the crash barriers of the central reservation. The victims increased as the sprawling wrecks covered the entire width of the motorway devouring more cars into the pile-up. It grew into a formidable mechanical fiend engulfing everything in its path. The collisions were generally non-severe except for the integrity of the car’s shell damaged but people generally escaped unscathed, perhaps only dazed. For now.
Parts of metallic chunks landed onto the backseat of his tortured BMW, through the demolished rear window. John ignored the disturbances and had acted in time to turn right as a Ferrari shot past like a bullet front-first into the side of an unfortunate mini-van.
(Not finished! To be Continued!)