Author: Rick Tobin

Linoleum floor tiles under Lieutenant Benson percolated. He watched his black and white control room warp in a rolling wave as a cacophony of grinding groans rose from below. He grasped slick white walls behind him for support, fearing his collapse. A nearby communication’s tech clenched his stainless steel table supporting radio equipment, preventing his rolling chair from careening out of control. Jerrod’s face, beneath his headset, reflected his boss’s growing terror.

“Is this how it takes everyone?” Benson screamed, with shock waves tugging his legs to near failure.

“No. It’s another quake,” Jerrod yelled back over the din. “We’re too far north for infiltration. This facility has ten-foot thick concrete footings with rebar. It’s a hundred miles beyond the tree line… not a green thing on this rock…but they’ve started tremors down south…could be Anchorage. I’ve lost contact with HQ. No one planned responses fast enough for this threat.”

“Never expected this last working Distant Early Warning site would be a safe haven from a bio-attack…like this hell.” Benson was still yelling after the station stabilized. Vertigo pulled at him, sending him rushing to a nearby chair, preventing vomit from spinning out of his overwhelmed stomach.

“Wouldn’t call us lucky,” Benson continued. “Compared to CONUS, maybe. Damn, even a full-out nuclear exchange couldn’t kill eighty percent of us in three days. Cities are all empty. No bodies to bury.”

Jerrod returned to his receiver, turning frequency dials, seeking any broadcasts since it went silent.

Jerrod interrupted. “Lieutenant, it’s weird. I didn’t even know these dinosaur sites from the Cold War existed till I got reassigned last week. They discovered I was finishing my bachelor’s in biology, planning to go civi on them. That’s a red flag. Brass claimed this was a critical operation and I fit the three No’s…”

They repeated the qualification line in unison: “No wife. No kids. Nobody.”

“I got the same line, sergeant. This rushed assignment was supposed to move me up the ladder after the increased Chinese threats. I thought we’d be protecting against missiles from Asia, not our own FUBAR…what did you call these things?” Benson rubbed his temples, squeezing back his dizziness.

“Mycelium, sir,” Jerrod responded, still listening to radio static.

“Explain again, why did DARPA idiots connect a supercomputer with AI to a fungus colony in Oregon? It’s beyond me. What the hell were they thinking?” Benson sat down hard, still queasy.

“My brother works…uh, worked… for Naval Intelligence in San Diego,” Jerrod answered. “He told me two years ago that our nuke subs needed a hack-proof com system. They considered using ocean fungus strands–after Cousteau established deep-sea floors were interconnected fungus jungles.”

“No shit? Really? That’s why they made contact with smart mushrooms? That’s nuts.”

“Maybe not. That Oregon site is the oldest living organism on Earth. Somebody must have thought it had advanced consciousness we didn’t recognize…and it might work with us once we found a way to reach out and connect.”

“So we pissed off toadstools who then told its cousins to eat us? And I thought my toe fungus was bad. Do you remember the LA news shots from yesterday of those threads quietly spreading, uncontrolled, dissolving every creature, dead or alive? Not a human bone left. They even got the roaches. It’s over, sergeant. We’re the mammoths this time, except we won’t leave frozen carcasses. Maybe we’ll be the last survivors, isolated here, but there’ll be no one to care–no one left to tell our story…or hear it.”

“Nobody. There’s a thought.” Jerrod continued monitoring the droning, continuous, monotonous static.