An old bottle with a key in it, attached to a box kite by a simple string. It was illogical to think it might have worked, but no one wanted to question a man of such intellectual stature. Perhaps it began as a joke, but to Yoma, there was nothing funny about that day. In a hundred years they’d come up with some other crack-pot means to power everything and people will believe in it, for a while at least.
He had been caught in traffic on the way to his wedding. The groom would be horrendously late, and Yoma knew that it would be the last straw in his fiancÃ©’s eyes. Traffic wasn’t really traffic that day. It was a stockpile of metal that had ceased to work, and all the lights supposedly running traffic had also seemed to lose their ability to function.
It hadn’t hit most of the people, who sat in their cars and tried to honk their horns. Some of them stared at the blank screens of their cellphones, and others turned the dials of their radio to find a spectrum of silence. Yoma left his car and walked down the street in his tux, downtrodden and defeated because he didn’t see this coming. He prided himself on being head professor of experimental sciences at Tesla University, a position that had helped him woo his lovely girlfriend.
Today was the day that all the equations dropped out, all the jargon became jarble, and every last one of the batteries in this world turned into a box of lies. Coils, turbines, and generators were as useful as wheels without hamsters.
Yoma continued on his path, watching the screens downtown display darkness. He mused to himself about buying stock in candle companies before nightfall.
Yuma stopped when he came across a particularly confused child who held a device once capable of producing games. The boy kept hitting it against a lamp-post while his parents tried desperately to restart their car.
“Stupid toy!” he yelled as he slammed it against the post, then tried to restart the machine with its power button. Yoma smirked and squatted beside him.
“What are you doing that for?” he asked.
“It won’t work! It’s broken!” With that reply, the boy ceased trying and stood with a frown on his face and frustration in his eyes.
Again, Yoma smirked, shaking his head as he rose to his feet. “Did you really believe that hitting it would make it work again? Why would you believe a silly thing like that?” Yoma began along his way again, shaking his head and madly smiling, whispering to himself, “Kite and Keyâ€¦ what a crock.”
He’d offered him some lemonade because he assumed he would like it. After all, Lupert himself liked lemonade, so it only made sense. With a shaky hand, he set the glass down on the table next to the man decked out in military regalia that Lupert had never seen before. Lupert watched a lot of army movies.
“So, what you’re saying is that you want me to do this military stuff for you?” Lupert nervously inquired.
The man sitting before Lupert might have been a military general, a skilled soldier, and possibly a murderer. To Lupert however, he was himself. The man was Lupert, and Lupert was staring into a nightmarish mirror where things had gone horribly wrong.
“I mean money is nice and everything butâ€¦ my job won’t understand. I work for this big law firm andâ€¦”
The military man, the other Lupert, interrupted. “Then fuck the money. I’ll offer you weapons, weapons this world has never seen. Look I justâ€¦” The hardened militant’s posture slumped. Lupert the lawyer had already begun to sit at the other end of the table.
“I need a vacation. My job, while rewarding, is just not cutting it for me. I need to know what life is like outside of that. Please, man, I meanâ€¦ you’re me. You have to understand.”
Sighing, Lupert considered the request. Rubbing his chin, he watched his double beg with battle-hardened eyes. “Okay, I’ll do it. But you have to promise me three months only, okay? I can only dodge bullets from Rkaâ€¦Rukaâ€¦”
“Rashilka. Nasty little bastards. You’ll know their kind when you see them. Thanks, Lupert, this really means a lot to me.” He handed him a wrapped up military outfit and gave him a small handheld trinket.
“What’s this?” The lawyer-turned-military leader asked.
“It’s the transponder for the dimensional locater and a uniform. You’ll need both.”
Nodding slowly, he rose to his feet and walked through the same door his double had come through earlier. He turned around and waved while military leader Lupert saluted his dimensional twin. Lupert went outside and fiddled around with the device for a bit until he vanished in a flash of blue light.
Militant leader Lupert sighed, then the face melted away into gills and grayish-greenish skin. Three eyes topped the head in a yellow glow, glancing around in simultaneous directions. He sat back down in the kitchen chair, kicked three suction-cup bottomed feet onto the table and exposed three rows of pointy teeth with a broad grin. “Hssssssssssssâ€¦sucker.”
Molly was just 14 but she’d already been the best in her class every year since she was allowed to grow and develop in the school system. It was no wonder that her hands shook today, staring at the vidscreen at school. “â€¦ I’m not the best? How could Hans best me!? I was well past his intellectual level last year!” Molly turned to her friends for comfort. There were so few of them left, and none of them had an answer for the suffering teen.
The girl shook her head and made fists. One of her friends spoke up, “Molly, it must have been a mistake,” Carol said, “You know how the school has been dealing with the loss of so many students. I mean, people are saying there’s a disease out there.”
Molly couldn’t stand to hear about her own failure excused as something as trivial as an administrative mistake. Many had gone missing, it was true, but Molly could only remember them as the ones who never lived up to her standards of intellect.
“You must be joking, Carol. They know exactly what’s going on but the Government won’t ban it! It’s Terracerin.” Clenching and unclenching her fists, the scorned girl turned back to her peers away from the vidscreen.
All of them seemed a bit uncomfortable with the topic. Even Carol the brave shuddered at the thought. “Molly, I hear Terracerin is all right. I wish I could take it but my parents won’t let me.”
“Good thing you didn’t!” Molly shouted at her friend, making them all back up a step. “You’d be just like that stupid Hans. He’s cheating! He’s taking the drug they give to stupid kids!”
Daelin spoke up, usually overly quiet she posed a question just to move the heat off her friend, “Butâ€¦ who’s the stupidest kid you know? I mean, none of them seem to be getting smarter and you’d think they would have taken itâ€¦” Trailing off, she awaited Molly’s wrath.
Molly posed the question to herself in a serious manner, “Stupidest? It used to be Cameron, then Theresa, then James butâ€¦ all of them just disappeared. Hmmâ€¦ I’d say the stupidest now would be Donovan.” Just then the bell rang, leaving Molly by herself as the girls scattered.
Walking the hallways of the school, Molly found it hard to grasp the idea of losing the year out to some joker taking Terracerin. She went to find Cameron’s locker. Amongst the halls of abandoned lockers she found his still there unopened and unclean. Flipping the latch up, she peeked inside while looking about for anyone watching. Her eyes lit up when she saw the plastic amber bottle on the top shelf that read “Terracerin”. Snatching it she mused to herself while she began to open. “Ha, barely any even taken. No wonder Cameron ran off. I’ll show them, I’ll show them all. Time to even the playing field, Hans.” With that, she looked down at the pill in her hand before popping the last one she’d ever take.
Another blast, and that one nearly scorched away Wemble’s shoulder. He was trying his damndest to keep out of sight, tucked behind an old medipak crate. Battle had been going on for almost a year now and they were close to extinction. The enemy might have outnumbered them, but the worst of the rebels’ problems were those damn anti-ray shields.
“Fuck! Selba! Do you have any of those electromagnetic displacers?” Wemble ducked his head down just before another blast sizzled against the wall next to him.
The girl yelled out from behind a large pile-up of crates across the warehouse, “All out! Better hope their batteries die soon!”
“Great,” Chief Wemble muttered to himself as he looked at his belt of flame-ray ammunition and thought it to be akin to attempting to destroy a planet by flicking peanuts at it. The guards were no doubt closing in by now; each had a scanner locking in on their location.
Peeking up over the cover, he fired a few rays at the one in the lead and watched the bolts of red dissipate around an invisible shield wall a few feet from his body.
“He’s over there!” he heard one shout, but Wemble wasn’t about to wait around. He heard the lasers and ray guns going off behind him, pounding into every object he passed as he bolted for the large pile of crates. Sweat rolled down his face as he dove behind a them, narrowly missing a shower of lasers and heated ions. The three soldiers following him were getting closerâ€¦he could hear them chattering about possible locations.
Wemble’s eyes skimmed the floor around him, looking for something, anything that could afford protection. Scrap metal, fragments of shattered Chinese vases, bits of painting fluttering away from him.
It was then that the last Chief of the Moon Rebels found Eureka.
A soldier turned the corner just as Wemble knew he would and raised his weapon as if preparing to put down a wounded animal. One grunt and a gurgle later, he was dead on the floor and a crazed Chief of the Moon Rebels flung himself out from the shadows, “For the Moon!” Like a possessed warrior, he swung the artifact of power over his head and downed the remaining patrols in a matter of seconds.
When Selba finally arose from her hiding place she found Wemble covered in blood, clutching the thing of great destruction and power in his left hand. “What… the hell is that thing? And what the fuck did you just do?”
With a grin, the Chief looked to his bewildered tech officer and hefted the metallic thing up onto his shoulder, “This is a 21st Century artifact called a sword,” he said. “And I just found the key to winning this fucking battle.”
Selba blinked wildly and the Chief walked around the room, examining the remnants of battle. “Hmâ€¦let’s start with stripping the metal off the walls.”
The expedition team had watched the aliens closely with devices and kept their bodies far away from any pathogens. Never before had anyone seen something quite like this. Today they’d be getting the special privilege of first contact. With all the alien races out there, however, the team was less than enthused.
“Are they monks?” Ferris joked as he sipped his coffee from behind a flat screen running another routine check. The scan showed up negative for pathogens or viruses almost immediately.
Taylor rolled her eyes and checked her nails with her feet propped up on the back of Ferris’ chair. “Just because they don’t speak doesn’t mean they follow some cult. It could just be genetic.”
“This is your pilot speaking,” Caldwell chimed in from overhead. “We’ll be touching down in thirty seconds next to their camp. Also, Ferris, if you drop any of that filthy fluid onto my deck I will use your blood to get it out. It stinks to high heaven when you do.”
“Ah shut up, Cal, the shit don’t stink that bad.” Ferris took another sip as he sat up and checked the readings one more time. “You ready to go, chica? A whole new race of people that look just like us is waiting.”
“You’re so narrow minded, Ferris. They might have new tech for us to bring back to base.” Taylor had already started gearing up for the land. It was only moments later that they touched down with a light shaking of the room and then the distinct sounds of de-pressurizing all over the main deck.
Ferris smirked as he sipped more of his coffee before downing the rest and tossing the cup. “Ah, yeah, gotta love those hut-dwelling tech-gods. One of them is going to try and mate me, you’ll see.”
“Oh for fucks sake, Ferris. They will get one whiff of you and run away.” Both had begun walking out onto the ramp as it opened up. The air, surprisingly, was quite clean. Both inhaled deeply and then looked at each other as if trying to spot a reaction. Taylor just smirked. “Damn, you’re still alive.”
Just then a group from the village wandered near the craft, eyes wide. Noting the presence of the expedition was hard not to do with a two thousand ton skimmer parked in their backyard. Taylor sighed when she saw them close in. “Now, just let me do the talkingâ€¦ assuming they speak at all.”
Taking a deep breath, Taylor began to explain that they had come from a far away place to make contact and that they were happy to see this was a peaceful place to live. It was a very long speech and offered very little gesticulation. Meantime, Ferris just looked confused.
“Well? Going to explain it to them or what!?” His brows pushed together as he just looked insulted that she was standing there looking back at him. Ferris’ nose twitched a bit and he wiped it a second, allowing him to relax before replying to Taylor’s comment.
The discussion lasted no more than five minutes and both had learned all they could have ever wanted from this silent group of alien people. In addition, Ferris found out that Taylor really did have the hots for him this whole time but it was clear from what Taylor communicated that he had a long way to go to get any respect from her. Both said their piece and walked back onto the ship leaving the villagers there. Not a word having been spoken.