Blacker than Energy

 

A story of caution by Javier R. Romero

 

It wasn’t long ago that physicists ramped up efficiency numbers for solar panels. It seemed to be a material engineer’s dream. Exotic materials were being created based on nano-technology that had just been prototyped. Bleeding edge technology for a bleeding edge world. Like software, video games, and cellphones, now the energy sector was releasing “Developer level” technology to the public. What’s cooler than being in on beta testing? Well… alpha testing obviously. The newer the better! Who cares if you get cancer? There’s a new experimental drug for that out now anyway.

 

But I digress… solar power!

 

Triple-junction cells were just the beginning! While studying what the energy transfer looked like in those cells they found something strange happening. In areas of the cell that were darker than others things seemed to be bi-locating. That is to say in layman terms one particle was in two places at the same time. Even more fascinating the waveforms were harmonizing in these areas but as soon as they left the darker regions the waveform collapsed. What did it mean? It didn’t take too long for the fringes of society to start worrying that scientists shouldn’t study the phenomena. If we listened to them we’d still be sitting in caves because fire is dangerous.

 

Needless to say, everyone got to work on making a perfectly even distribution of those darker areas until they managed to produce a perfect 350mm x 350mm panel. The scientific world rejoiced just because they were able to create the panel, it would be 7 months until they were able to test it but that was the hard part. In order to pull energy from the panel we had to rethink the way we interface with solar panels. Unfortunately the only person who had come close to explaining the process was a disgraced electrical engineer. He was the guy who blew up a power-plant because the “gnomes” said it was bored. Don’t ask me how a power-plant can be bored. Normally no one would’ve paid attention to him but he locked himself in on one of the meetings and forced everyone to listen to him… at gun point.

 

After a 2 day hostage scenario the scientists came to see that Englebart knew exactly what he was talking about… this time.

 

After coaxing 5 million dollars out of the federal government for “Renewable Energy Technology Development” Englebart got to work. He locked himself away in the warehouse and any attempt to get inside by the scientists was met with frantic yelling about disturbing the “Quantilis”. Even when the power went out he calmly walked outside, started up the generator trucks and went back to work. The phrase, “A man possessed” was too perfect. At the end of it all he wheeled out a 10 foot tall behemoth of wires, glass tubes and a board with at least 14 different knobs on the front.

“Don’t touch the knobs they’re for the song. You have to sing in tune or else it will get dark. Not colour, dark in, in, in, feel. Everything will change… feel different. Change isn’t good, not this kind. Don’t touch the knobs. Gotta sing in tune. A…A sharp should be good. Sing once, first song, final song. No change.”

 

He only agreed to and was able to get one interview despite the constant push for him to become the face of this new technology. The other scientists said he would be a sympathetic personality for people to connect to. Englebart knew they were making fun of him.

 

“So, finally Mr. Englebart…”

“Please, Timothy. Call me Timothy, I like Timothy.”

“Well then, Timothy. Why is it that you’re so intent on having your… tuner set to A sharp?

“Energy is important. Runs through the wires like a, like a hum. 60or 50hz. Boring sound but ok for cavemen. A sharp is alive and happy.”

“I see. Well Timothy, is there…”

“Music makes people happy. When you hear a good song you smile. When you hear a bad one you feel bad. Electricity is waves. Waves have sound. Make good sound, make good energy. Make bad sound… Bad sound bad. A Sharp happy.”

“Tell me this Timothy, what would happen if your tuner fell out of tune?”

 

It was at that point that Englebart started crying uncontrollably. Newspapers would go on to call him a freak and a weirdo. The other scientists were quickly branded as “The minds behind the future.” No one ever understood what he meant. All they needed to know was that he made the tuners and once the first one was set the others were automatic because of his “Quantilis”, whatever that was. No one knows because they’re locked inside the tuners.

 

Needless to say, with the oil reserves nearly dry, the world was holding its breath when the first test occurred. In actuality the theoretical numbers were so good they were already in talks for retrofitting existing solar farms and manufacturing single home units. It was impossible to stop the machine of commerce now.

 

On the big day Englebart was nervous. He kept saying the weather was bad, but that’s because he was struck by lightning in the past, hence his mannerisms. Clouds always made him uneasy. He made sure everyone was standing far enough back as not to disrupt his tuning. After 4 minutes of him humming to himself on national television he yelled in triumph, startling some of the people around him. He said before they started that “When I say you can make toast it’s a success.”

 

Everyone held their breath as the numbers on the power meter rose, 30 volts, 60, 120, 240. The camera pans over to the other side of the tuner and the screen said 30 amps. When the numbers stopped rising a reporter walked up to Englebart curious about what the readouts on the myriad screens meant.

 

“So Englebart, what do these readings mean? Is it a success?”

“Well these numbers are for each line and when the lines are used there are 14 in total. Cut one of them in half and you have the others singing fine through the wires to, to, to, to your toaster. We just have to let the tu, tu, tu, tuner… You can make toast.”

 

It was at that point the reporter slapped Englebart on the shoulder in congratulations. The reporter walked in front of him and motioned the camera to zoom in on the screens.

“Please be careful. It has a few more seconds to set.”

The reporter waved at Englebart and walked back down the stairs talking into the camera as everyone else was rejoicing. Finally, we have an alternative to oil that was cheap and easy to access. The wire on the reporter’s backup mic was now coiled around Englebart’s feet. With each step the wire was pulled taught, eventually making Englebart lose his balance. His hand landed on one of the knobs and a look of horror fell over his face. However the cameras were now focused on the more photogenic faces of the scientists Englebart had held hostage. His tuner made the sound to let him know the frequency had been set and Englebart fell to his knees.

 

It wasn’t until 4 years later that Englebart had his last interview.

“… Don’t you love how everyone is smiling now because of the green, cheap and affordable energy you helped provide them?!”

“Smiles hide mean thoughts. I don’t like the smiles. Everyone mean outside now not just inside… I said A sharp… this isn’t A sharp.”

 

It was slight, only visible for a flash of an instant but it was noticeable. The interviewer glared at Englebart with a murderous intent.

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Winter’s Reach

Even with the heat on, as I was sweating, winter stretched into my room and lapped at my arm. I glared at the window before I got up to check it, just to make sure the top window hadn’t crawled it’s way down a few millimetres. I pulled the curtain away and saw nothing but the pure whiteness that was the blizzard’s aftermath. The window was solidly closed, the latches were locked as well. I grabbed the curtain to pull it shut again but I froze in place. There was a figure standing in the street outside my new house. The tall dead trees of winter looked like they were quivering with anticipation behind them. I tried to pull the curtain but I wasn’t sure if moving was the best thing to do at that moment. My mind however, was free to race.

“I can’t tell if it’s a dude or a chick.

Aren’t they cold?

Why are they standing there?

Why are they looking at me?”

8920426131_160d913bd3_b

Photo by Adrian Smalley, https://www.flickr.com/photos/smalleyphotography/8920426131 used under Creative Commons 2.0 No changes were made to this image.

 

Then I noticed the snow around them was melting and as I looked away from their face to focus on the pool of water under their naked feet, a voice pierced my mind.

“Ektrazeh nuk, talemnasool. Ikst bjall talemnashadh.”

I stood there, the voice echoing in my head as they started walking toward my front door. I couldn’t move. Thinking back on it I don’t know if it was fear or something else that petrified me. All those years of learning to defend myself vanished from my mind. Street fighting, shooting, gone. They say your life flashes before your eyes before death, well I’d always been early and getting a head start on things. As I heard my front door torn off it’s hinges I took stock of my life. Rocky childhood, abuse, drugs but then when I was finally on my own I’d gotten good jobs, paid my way through college and I’d just bought this house…

And now I was going to die in it.

The front door sailed across the street and hit a tree, knocking down the snow. A bright flash appeared amoung the trees but then I heard steps on my staircase. I whipped around and each step seemed to fall with the weight of my life, shaking every fibre of my being. I was sure I’d stopped breathing but my heart was trying to get away by bursting through my chest… It’d never beaten so hard. The person reached the top of the landing and their steps paused as if they were trying to figure out where I was from where they saw me outside. Then it seemed like someone whispered in my ear.

“Take two steps to the right or I can’t help you.”

First I heard a random voice in my head and now, “no one” is whispering in my ear. I raised my right arm as if trying to distinguish between my right and left and fought with myself about whether or not moving was a good idea. Maybe the thing in the hall would think I bolted and they’d leave. As I had that thought the footsteps started again, as if my thinking tipped it off.

I realized I’d started breathing again. Fast, chaotic breaths were dispelling cold clouds from my mouth into the air. It’s fingers wrapped around my door frame followed by it’s head, peaking from behind it’s hand like the most terrifying game of peekaboo. Their eyes were empty yet full of hunger. Golden iris’s with pinpoint pupils were looking at me as if I was dinner. It’s mouth opened and it was breathing heavy and fast. They looked filled with as much anticipation as I was filled with fear.

It walked in the room disturbingly fast and as it was about 5 feet away from me I didn’t take two steps, I lunged to the right. My eyes were fixed on their golden ones and as they turned toward me my window imploded into the room. I saw blood splatter from the person in front of me onto my bed. They grabbed at their shoulder and roared while turning towards the window, sounding like some kind of lion mixed with a crocodile. There was a flash just like I saw earlier amoung the trees and then someone else just appeared in my room. In the blink of an eye there was a long sword sticking through Gold Eye’s head and it’s body went limp.

The new person in my room walked to the window and looked around for a few seconds before walking over to his sword, which was lodged in the dead persons head. He put his foot on it’s mouth and grabbed the handle of his sword.

“The problem is, there’s no fuller on this blade so it gets wedged inside em every time if I stab rather than slice. Thing is, with my blink, it’s easier to stab.”

He grunts loudly as the blade pulls free and he wipes it on the dead persons clothes before stowing it on his back.

“Well, it was only one tonight. But there’s no way to tell if that one was connected to the hive mind or if it was paying roaming charges. Either way you got two choices. You come with me now and I’ll get you somewhere safe or you can stay here and tell the police about these two crazy assholes who broke into your house. That the crazy asshole with a sword killed the other crazy asshole who was going to kill you; by the way, this guy tore your front door off. Then, when the police are gone, either another lone wolf will come by since you’re marked now or maybe this one’s hunting party finds out their sibling died in your house. Me explainin this to you only happens if we leave tonight, right now.”

I stood up and looked at the pool of blood pouring out of the dead things head into my green rug and shakily walked to my closet, threw my coat on the bed and pulled out a lock box before answering.

“My shoes are downstairs. Can I bring my shotgun?”

Pain

I tried working the other day. I only made it four hours till I was curled up in a pathetic ball of pain. My focus was wavering and I couldn’t in good conscience continue driving.

What the fuck.

It’s not like I have cancer, or MS, Muscular dystrophy or anything like that. The main thing I got from doctors was either my nerves are over-active or I’m making it up.

I was happy.

I didn’t have a desk job. It was always something new, something challenging. I’d found the department I wanted to work in. I was making friends, learning, growing…

Then my body said fuck it.

I felt like someone was taking needles and 1, 3, 8 at a time digging them into the joints in my chest. The rhomboid in my back was threatening to either tear or break something but it never did.

I was happy.

People needed me. I was useful. But there I was, a little more than 5 years on from Oct 4, 2011, trying to be helpful, forcing myself to believe I had gotten over whatever this is, but still broken. If I just persevere through it, I thought, I could continue the life I put on pause.

There are terminal people in the world who are still working, still being useful/helpful and here I am a crumpled ball writing stories to try and get over the depression.

People are worse off than I am.

I was just certified to work on cars, then the industry crashed and no one wanted to hire me. Then I started learning the ins-and-outs of the film world. I got a few jobs and was making contacts, I was having fun. The best year of my life.

What do you do?

How do I answer that question without sounding like a child who doesn’t want to move out of his parents house? No one wants to hear a sob story. Everyone has their bullshit to deal with. “Grow a pair!” “You just have to work through the pain and stop being a bitch.” I’ve thought of everything people say to millenials. Those overgrown sheltered babies who can’t hold a job because for one reason or another they don’t understand the real world isn’t going to coddle them.

I don’t want to be coddled.

I wanted to move out. I wanted my own place. I wanted to pay my student loan. I was ready. I was doing everything right. My credit card never maxed out, I made payments on everything.

But the real world said fuck you.

I lost muscle mass and weight from not moving cuz of the pain. I literally forced myself to come up with little tasks and projects to do just to move, cuz I couldn’t bear lying down in bed being in constant pain anymore. I was in pain but at least I was doing something. From 155lbs to 123. When you’re 5’8” 123 is scary. Emaciated would be the operative word. I’d seen the outline of bones I’d never seen before. And it angered me.

I wasn’t sure if it was hurting me in the long run but I was mad at my body. I forced myself to workout again. Every single 5 minute workout would render me motionless for a week. I was enraged. I wasn’t dying, I didn’t have cancer, they have it worse than me. I forced every workout beyond tears. Muscles in my back not withstanding, I was at least going to stop looking emaciated. Then I was back at 155. The needle pain in my chest joints had settled down and now they only visit me for short periods thanks to one doctor who didn’t treat me like I was worthless.

I was improving.

It had taken a little over 4 years but I’d gotten some of my strength back, but the body pains still persisted. When it rains I feel like I’ve overworked my upper body even though I’ve done nothing. I shake when I move, picking up a fuckin gallon of milk is a chore. I don’t know what it feels like for muscles to actively tear off your bones, but this makes me imagine it.

Standing, sitting, laying down. My day consists of moving between these trying to alleviate the pain. “Get a sitting job.” I’ve heard it often. My legs don’t hurt. My legs are perfectly fine. You don’t know how much of your upper body you use while sitting. I couldn’t even write this without doubling over my keyboard, body shaking, elbows supporting my upper body on my thighs, because I’ll be damned if I’m forced to stop something I’m doing. But then after a while, 10 more minutes after I’ve doubled over, the needles start inserting themselves into my chest joints again. I fight against them until the tears come. I fight them off too. My body shakes with every breath. Focusing becomes harder and harder. I spite the pain for as long as I can. I thought, hey maybe I can start working again.

I tried to work for a day. I didn’t finish the job. A little more than 5 years now and within 2 hours I slow down. In 4 I become worthless. So I’ll continue to escape into writing. I can control my words. I can control my words.

The Wisdom to Know

A conversation between Panzer Steegle and an Energy Being.

 

“Well you guys are hyper advanced compared to us on Earth, it’s more than likely life will exist 4 billion years from now. How are you going to prevent the collision of Andromeda and Milky Way.”

She gave me a look one would expect from their grandparent before speaking.

“Why would you want to stop existence?”

“That’s not stopping existence! It’s preventing billions of planets from being destroyed and countless systems from being eaten by blackholes!”

“Keeping our two galaxies in their current places throws all the other galaxy’s out of balance. Are our lives so important as to disrupt and destroy countless others whom we may never meet, solely because we don’t know them? We know their stories. Families, children, persons whom are ill, persons whom are doing all they can to improve someone else’s life in the face of evil and negativity.”

“So what you’re saying is, it’s possible to control a galaxy… but it’s irresponsible?”

“Of course it isn’t possible! Could you stand in front of a speeding, out of control truck and stop it from running you over with just your Earthling body?”

The Opposition

It was his first time going to a carnival or festival, or whatever this thing was. All he knew was that there were rides and booths that would cheat you out of your money for trying to win rigged games. Jameson Rodriguez always wanted to go to a thing like this. His sister came home from one when they were younger and she told him about a ride where you stand inside of it while it spins faster and faster, pinning you to the wall. Jameson wondered how that would feel, he wanted to try and lift his arm as the ride spun at max speed.

“What’s the name of the ride?”
“The Whirley-Gig.”
“That sounds lame… You sure it spins fast?”
“Yeah it’s the only one that’s designed to spin as fast as it does.”
“How fast?”
“Jamie, I, I don’t know! I just know it spins faster than any other one, like 2 times as fast I think I heard.”
“You never know anything.”
“You ask too many questions Jamie.”

She stuck her tongue out at him, ran ahead and playfully elbowed her best friend and boyfriend in the ribs. Jameson’s girlfriend kissed him on the cheek and giggled.

“That’s why you’re going out with a scientist.”

“The group continued walking down the country road and enjoyed the ups and downs seeing the festival appear then disappear from behind the hills. By the time they arrived the sun had past it’s zenith and a cool comfortable breeze was blowing across the grounds. The line to the “Whirley-Gig” wasn’t as long as he expected. They only had to wait 8 minutes, although the group had to be split up. It didn’t matter, Jameson, his two best friends and his girlfriend all got to go on at the same time.
The buzzer sounded and the Whirley-Gig came to a stop, the sound of the electric motor winding down sent chills of excitement up Jameson’s spine. His sister got off and immediately fell over from dizziness. She laughed as she stumbled down the rest of the ramp, holding onto the railing for dear-life while swearing she was fine. Jameson  and his group all stood at opposite points so they could see the looks on each others faces while trying to man-mode the ride. The people piled in and filled up every position of the Whirley-Gig. As the door closed the light-bulb blew out.

“Hah! You guys are lucky I can’t see your faces now!”
“You mean you’re lucky we can’t see yours Mr. Whiskey!”

A nickname he picked up in high school for the obvious connection to the whiskey brand. Ironically enough Jameson hated the taste of whiskey.
The an audible “clink” was heard from the motor almost as though something bounced off of it. They felt themselves rise up and starting to spin faster and faster. Jameson was waiting to feel the g-forces crush him into the wall but nothing of the sort happened to him.

“Hey guys, this is kinda lame! I barely even feel us spinning.”

After a few more thoughts to himself he started hearing some people complaining.

“It didn’t go this fast before.”
“Don’t say that, now I’m actually worried about how fast we’re spinning.”

Jameson scrunched his face in confusion.

“Are you guys serious? I barely feel an…”

He was cut off by the sounds of the other people making groaning noises. Then someone started to scream out in pain.

“STOP! STOP THE RIDE, PLEASE!!”
“Jameson! There’s something wrong! My body feels like it’s being…”
Just then the wall Jameson was connected to made a metallic groan. Jameson heard one ping then another and then a lot more. When he realized what was happening it was too late to say anything. He felt the straps loosen around his body and he couldn’t hear anything but everything looked as if he were in slow motion he saw light start to pour into the Whirley-Gig. Then, just as he felt himself completely separate from the Whirley-Gig he saw the shear terror in everyones eyes. His friends looked towards him with faces forcing to restrain the pain they were feeling, one had already passed out. He locked eyes with one of the other people on the ride and noticed there was no life in them and blood was leaking from the mans’ nose and ears. Jameson’s hearing came back just enough to hear the wind rushing past his ears as he flew through the air.
He saw the ground rushing towards him and he reflexively put his hands and legs out in front of him, as if they’d break his fall and not just be the first things to be crushed.

Jameson’s sister had regained her balance in time to see Jameson’s section flung from the ride and she caught a glimpse of his bright green shirt and screamed in terror as many other people were. Two more sections were flung off the Whirley-Gig before the engineers were able to regain some control of the electronics and they slowed the ride down as fast as they could without causing further harm to the 17 people left inside or to what was left of the rides stability arms. As it came down it dug a trench into the ground throwing more metal all over the place. It caught traction and nearly ripped out the support beams that were planted 10 feet underground. It stopped just before crushing the engineers that were attacking the electronics.

A few cries of pain were heard coming from the shredded Whirley-Gig and it took a few seconds for people and emergency personnel to run into the horror-ride.

“Please don’t move anyone, you might cause further harm to them!”

There was a media circus outside of the hospital. Reporters from the surrounding counties had shown up in front of the hospital hoping to get a chance to talk to survivors and one person in particular. Jameson’s sister was watching the news, they were playing a clip for the umpteenth time that evening. It was of Jameson being flung from the Whirley-Gig and sailing through the air. When it landed with Jameson face down everyone in the hospital room cringed then looked towards Jameson who was watching the footage, shocked as much as everyone else was. A little crater formed and the Whirley-Gig section split nearly in half with Jameson unconscious underneath it, his legs bored into the ground and his hands were propping up his unconscious body.

The towns hospital was small so when they saw nothing wrong with him after x-rays and other tests they told him to wait in the waiting room with the rest of his friends and family. He wasn’t to stand  or leave the wheel chair he had been confined to. Even though he had been bombarded with questions he remained silent. His main thoughts focused on his best friends and his girlfriend. All three had severe internal hemorrhaging like everyone else on the ride and were as unconscious as the others as well. Most of the 18 survivors had fallen into a coma. Jameson started rolling back towards where his friends were being operated on without saying a word.
“Wait stupid, you’re not allowed to wheel yourself anywhere remember?”

Anna walked over to her brother and started pushing him.

“Why did…”
“I don’t know.”

She pushed him to the door of the room he and his friends stuff were in. One of his friends had already left surgery and was now lying in this room in a coma. Jameson looked at his sister confused as to why she brought him here instead of the surgery wing.

“We… we can’t be there, you know that. We’ll just be in their way.”

Jameson stood up and grabbed his friends hand.

“This is fucked…”
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On the other side of the world, in the Swiss Alps, a group of people are reviewing the news footage and trying to figure out what to make of it.
“I’ve taken to just calling him “The Opposition”.”
“That’s cute sweety, but why?”
“I hate when you call me that Siren.”

The girl swipes at the see through screen in front of her and it slides out of her way, giving her a clear line of sight at Siren. She gives her a death glare from her red and yellow heterochromic eyes, to which Siren merely laughs gleefully.

“I call him that because his body seems to nullify any oppositional force that acts upon it, whether he’s unconscious or not.”
“So he was unconscious when he landed?”
“I’m not sure, the videos don’t show his face. It’s just a calculated guess.”
“A calculated guess from you is damn near 100%.”
“A guess is still a guess.”
“You’re right, sorry. Tyler, what do you think?”
“I think he could help us, if he wanted to at least.”
“Therein lies our problem then.”

A woman with hair that seems as if it’s changing colour taps on the coffee table in front of her.

“The three of us could go as a family, meeting some relative.”
“You, Tyler and sweety?”

An eraser bounces off the womans head as she says sweety and she laughs obnoxiously.

“Well, if you guys want to then I have no problems with it. You’ll have to make it quick though. There’s no knowing what’ll happen between now and when you three arrive. The town might try and kill him.”
“Quick and painless Siren, like your death if you call me sweety one more time. We’ll get him.”
“Ok ok, I’ll stop. For now.”

The woman says with a smile as she vanishes into thin air.

“Dad, I wanna fight her, can I fight her?”
“No. What you will do my 19 year old, is get your gear and your mothers ready for the trip, with your mothers help.”
“Fine.”

The girl swipes down at the screen in front of her and it disappears into a cylinder sitting on the floor. She grabs it while standing up and walks through a bulk head, The woman with colour changing hair following right after, ruffling the hair on Tyler’s head as she passes him.

“You’re such a slow eater.”
“I’m just savouring the meal I prepared Rachel.”

Rachel walks after her daughter through the bulk-head as Tyler finishes his food.

The Impossible Nut

The Impossible Nut

Ever since they could remember the Ilakos have never been able to break open the Improbum Vessel, colloquially known as the Impossible Nut, or the Improbum Nut. There are stories and tales passed down through generations of families about the nuts. “The Gods do not want us to be able to grow the fruit at our behest. In order to control the growth of the Improbo Fruit, they made the nut inside impossible to plant, and by extension impossible to break.” Another being that the knowledge gained from peering inside of the nut can cause you to go mad, or that were one ever opened, it would swallow the entire universe and it would start over from the zero point. A more simpler explanation is that there is no nutritional value to be had from them so there’s no point to care about it. But the Ilakos are a story favouring people so that last theory was not well liked.

Improbo trees grow strangely when compared to others, always in clusters of 4, 6, or 8. Also if all the trees in one area were cut down they’d grow back somewhere along an invisible logarithmic spiral. They’ve tried planting the nut many times obviously, but the nuts never grew into Improbo Trees. They also tried planting the fruit, going so far as to make sure there were no blemishes on the outside. In those cases the fruit just ended up rotting and the nut, as always, turned into dust 4 days after the last fibre of the fruit fell away from it. Observing the “dustification” of the nut provided no insight into what the inside looked like. Like Mega Man exploding into tiny bits when he dies, the dust went everywhere and quickly vanished from sight.

Every year since the Ilakos can remember, they have had a global festival, every city, town, and village would devote an entire week to the Improbum Vessel. Sculptors would try their best to imitate it’s perfectly ovular shape. Contests of nearly every imaginable type took place during the Gaia Festivus actually. One even lasting the entire week where participants would try to hold onto the nut as long as possible. This contest was near impossible with the nut having curves so perfect that trying to grab one bare handed proved a comical task. Hundreds from each city, town and village would enter these contests and nary a few would be able to hold onto theirs until day 3 let alone day 7.

There was another contest. One held at the end of the week where the best engineers from around the world would showcase their Improbo Machines. Machines designed for one purpose, to try and crack or maybe even break an Impossible Nut open. With the dawning of the industrial age 428 years ago the machines became more elaborate and larger as the years went on. Often times having to be constructed on the festival grounds due to transportation issues. Many of these colossal machines had construction started months in advance with full construction crews that received wages. This contest was the most anticipated every year, but every year the people would leave disheartened as the impressive and sometimes laughable titans failed at their tasks. After a terrible accident one year a mandatory blast radius was instated around the machines and power-plants were not to include nuclear elements of any kind. They could however request for the entire city, town or villages’ power to be routed to their machine for operation purposes. The danger was in the chunks of the Improbo Machines damaging the nearby powerplant.

Seeing the immense power requirements that these so-called “Improbo Machines” called for, the Ilakos looked for new, amazing and insane ways to generate energy. After last years festival a breakthrough of unimaginable proportions was announced. Actual clean and limitless energy generation. A team of energy researchers had stumbled upon the possibility 15 years prior and since then worked tirelessly to prove it was indeed as they claimed. They were looking forwards to next years Festival to showcase the power of their generator and what better way to do so than to build an Improbo Machine, THE Improbo Machine.

They had finished construction earlier that day and finally, the project that generated more money for their town than any of them had seen in their lives, was ready for it’s first and final test. Unlike many other machines of this size they had to set it on an anti-gravity foundation as to not drive a massive crater into the ground when the 4096 tonne hammer hit the nut after it’s 2560 meter high launch. The hammer would be accelerated downward by a rail-gun-like mechanism which would see the hammer break the sound barrier 6 times over, also known as Mach 6. The shock of the immediate stop would be handled by a secondary anti-gravity drive, mechanically similar to the “long recoil” system in some guns where the barrel slides in the opposite direction of the projectile as it is fired. Only in this instance it’s entirely designed to offset impact shock and there is no second projectile to be loaded unlike with guns. The 4096 tonne hammer is also treated like a bullet and spirals on it’s way down to meeting the Impossible Nut with the very small, relatively needle like point at it’s tip. The nut will be placed into a sonic field that will keep it levitated and as stable as if it were encased in a material stronger than anyone can think of. This colossal machine will use 6 yottawatts, or about the same energy that was unleashed from the Tsar Bomba, the most powerful Hydrogen Bomb ever detonated.

It was time for ignition, the blast radius for this Improbo Machine was estimated at 10 times the normal 5 mile radius for machines of this size, so people set up their towns festival 5 miles farther than that. This was not the first machine to have been built in the desert but the Ilakos from the same town as the scientists who created it were glad to have the thing out here rather than in their back yards. The signal relay satellite was positioned over-head and the countdown began. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Ignition. The word appeared on the large outdoor screens set up for the event. They all wore goggles even though they were facing away from the Improbo Machine, just in case. The rails were charged and the sound was an amalgam of a few high-pitches with a low hum behind them.

The mag-locks were released. The telltale cloud of the sound-barrier being broken came and left. The hammer spun faster and faster then crashed into the Imbrobum Vessel. A massive cloud enveloped the entire machine and some of the cameras went off-line but not before chunks of metal were seen whipping past them. The vid was immediately played back at a slower rate for the crowd of 310+ thousand people and they all stared closer than they had when it happened the first time. The rail arms lit up and the hammer cruised down, reaching it’s top speed in less than a second. The needle-like tip of the hammer shining as it raced closer and closer to it’s target. As the hammer struck the nut it exploded, the top of the hammer peeling down and around the needle as it met the Improbum Vessel. Then the impossible was seen for the first time. A crack appeared in the nut just before the mutilated hammer blocked it from view. The towers that propelled the hammer shot up as they were designed and the chunks of the hammer were allowed to shoot out in all directions.

The team of scientists had already jumped into their 3 desert buggies almost before they fired the hammer. They had the luxury of a relatively flat terrain between them and their machine which meant driving at 130kph (80+mph) in the desert wasn’t as suicidal as one might think. Hitting the occasional dune they made their way at 160kph (100mph). They knew it was going to work. Just then a chunk from the hammer shot by them, nearly crashing into them and landed with a thud not too far behind them. They weren’t supposed to be seeing debris out this far… Then they saw something that terrified them. One of the rail-towers was falling, 2.5 kilometres or 1.5 miles of metal, composites and electrical systems came crashing down out of the sky.

When they finally reached their machine the dust was still settling around them. One of the scientists checked the energy consumption meter, it read “8 Yottawatts consumed, .8 seconds…” that wasn’t what they designed it to operate at. They all ran to the power-plant and saw it was running fine. Not so much as a hiccup in operation. The machine had set itself down from it’s anti-gravity supports after the hammer hit it’s mark and the scientists clambered up the ladder to look at the nut. What did it look like inside?!

Was it really the secret to the universe?

The sonic field was still operating and the nut was sitting inside of it. Two perfectly split halves. The same ordinary greyish outside but the inside was similar to something they had seen before. In fact, it was sitting inside the generator not too far from them powering this machine. In essence, the power-core that had just provided 8Yottawatts in .8 seconds was at the center of the Imbrobum Vessel…

Act Five Finale

           It had been three days since the president of the airbike company released his statement, 7 since the 25 R’s were stolen, and I had finally found one of them. One of the Young Beasts had just left it there after he got bored with it. His friends tried to destroy it but they didn’t understand how the thing was put together. They were made to withstand 800 mph+ crashes, hitting one with a steel beam wasn’t going to do anything but scratch the paint and buff the alloy underneath. I was wearing a lab coat I found a few days before along with the station issued gravity boots. The boots came up to my knees and were law in case the gravity field ever gave out… I thought they made me look cool and when riding a 25 R you had to look cool.

           I made sure the Young beasts had left the area before I tried to approach it. They already killed two people who tried to steal the bikes from them and I didn’t want to be number three. After giving the area a good over-watch I approached the bike and plugged in my key hack. Hopefully I wouldn’t kill the operating board with my low tech hack but it was worth a try. Just then I heard the other 25 R engines screaming nearby and terror shot through me like high voltage. I jumped on the bike and smacked at the key as if that would have sped up the hack. I must’ve been in their line of sight judging from the way the engines sounded. My engine screamed to life and a smirk shot across my face. I gunned it and felt the immediate rush of accelerating from 0 to 60 in 1.8 seconds. I was still terrified about what they would do to me if they caught me, but the smile never left. So for the next 5 hours I would run from them, pushing the bike as far and as fast as it would go off-track in this now cramped city.

           After the first hour it was child’s-play out running them. Their reaction times were milliseconds too slow to keep up with me and that’s when I figured out something. Not all Young Beasts had super strength and some of them were actually very smart with super human agility… I was a young beast. At that moment, almost immediately, I started thinking of ways to hide it from people if I survived running from the gang. It was a realization that nearly petrified every fiber of my being.

           At the top of the sixth hour I heard the familiar dock alarm. Another freighter was coming in. That’s when I had a psycho plan, maybe I could get these guys sucked out of the air-lock. I risked getting sucked out myself in the split second there was no vacuum shield, but these guys were dangerous… and they probably wouldn’t die… I wasn’t sure if I would survive though.

“Ok you four, I’m lining up the air-locks. You have your suits on?”

“We are ready for torpedo disembark captain.”

“I don’t need one.”

“Shut up Rayne.”

“Quiet you two. Go ahead captain.”

“Air pressure approaching max tolerable levels… check. Firing in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, MARK!”

           The air-lock doors shot open and they were sucked out into the vacuum. Rayne spun around and saluted the crew on the bridge then spun back and focused on not smacking into the side of Epsilon 001.

“Alright sis, how many minutes until we enter port?”

“At our current speed we sh….”

“Sis… RAYNE!”

           Ryder looked behind him and sighed in relief as he saw his sister fussing with the communicator on her neck. Since sound doesn’t travel in space Old Beasts who could survive out there got communicators that picked up on their vocal chord vibrations, handy when you can’t really exhale while speaking.

“Current speed 2 minutes… give er take.”

“Watch out twins, debris!”

 

          Three of them flew apart like a squadron of fighter jets in formation. Xephyr, the woman with the tattoo on her neck unsheathed her sword and slapped her hand on the side of the blade as she pointed it directly in front of her. She bore through the meteoroid and came out of the other side with her sword glowing yellow. The hole she bored was molten and glowed eerily in the vacuum. Rayne noticed something shooting out of the dock in front of them.

“Guys what’s that exiting the dock? Holy! It’s the Young Beasts! Quick bro! While they’re still clumped together!”

“On it!”

           The twins pulled their short staffs from their waists, two large beams shot out from the ends and started to surround the Young Beasts who were floating helplessly in the vacuum.

“I only count 7, we were told 9 were here.”

“Did you want this to be easy sis?”

“Shut up.”

           The beams of light split apart into thousands of strands and completely surrounded the free floating Young Beasts, shocking them with enough electricity to knock out a heard of rhinoceros.

“Gimme the load sis, you should concentrate on not breaking anything as we land, regen wasn’t one of your retains.”

           Rayne handed her brother the short staff and they snapped together as he locked them onto his waist, the odd net of Young Beasts and airbikes trailing behind him. As they entered the dock they had to stop their acceleration before the stations gravity did. Hayden pulled out his sword now and as he and Xephyr pointed their swords behind them and an unseen parachute slowed them to a sliding stop. Ryder spun around, landing sideways on his feet as if he were riding a skateboard, with the net of Young Beasts and airbikes now slung over his shoulder. A concussive blast shot forward from his side and slowed him to a halt. Rayne clapped her hands in front of her and a small sonic boom shot forward, slowing her acceleration and she dropped to her feet right in front of a boy who was straddling one of the Airjet 25 R’s. But he wasn’t dressed like the other gang members. Unlike their faux leather jackets and neon construction workers pants, this boy was wearing a pair of tattered jeans, a compression shirt and an over-sized lab coat with his regulation gravity boots. Rayne held her hand to his throat like it was a knife and a blue light surrounded it from a curious bracelet on her wrist.

“Don’t move and don’t lie. Are you apart of their gang?”

“No, I heard the docking alarm and thought I could get them sucked into the vacuum so they’d stop hurting people.”

“Are you a Young Beast? Only a Young Beast would be able to ride one of those with no armor from what I’ve heard about them.”

“I think I am.”

“Hmm, so you don’t know the extent of your abilities?”

The boy shook his head no.

“Smarter than the other kids in your class?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm… super fast reaction time and I’m guessing you heal pretty quick too?”

“I think so.”

“Where are your parents?”

“I don’t have those.”

           At this point Rayne lowered her hand, the blue light dissipating as Ryder, Xephyr and Hayden walked up behind her. Each holding a helmet under their arms, Ryder now dragging the unconscious Young Beasts behind him.

“Well now you’ve got a family kid. We can’t leave you he….”

           It was at that moment the other two gang members crashed the last bike into the CO2 scrubbers. The explosion shook the entire station. Hayden unfurled a see-through sheet and placed it on the ground, kneeling as he did so. It stuck to the floor like a magnet and a list popped up on the left side, the tiled surface of the dock showed through the rest of the sheet. The list had the different sections of the station named. He tapped the choice that read sub basement systems. The clear part of the sheet x-rayed through the floor of the dock and seemed to be looking for a vantage point on the explosion. It zeroed in and he saw one of the Young Beasts laying unconscious with an inferno in front of her, then a second explosion shook the station. This time the evacuation alarms started to sound. Ryder looked at me and said the weirdest thing I’d ever heard.

“You should actually go evacuate with the rest of the station, if the station doesn’t explode and we survive, we’ll adopt you. You need Beasts as parents if you don’t want to end up like these kids. Also, if you can hang on to that bike then I guess we can just say it blew up in the explosion.”

           I figured I had a few hours till the evacuation was complete. There would be a back up scrubber working in over-clock mode but we’d have to leave so they could run a full check of the station. I used those hours to change the appearance and sound of the Airjet 25 R and was able to hold onto it while we were transported to the frigid moon Antarctica II. The brief time I spent there I got a job doing colony messenger work. After we got back to the Station I was finally able to connect to the network and find out the names of the four people who said they’d be my family. Since then I’ve helped them corral the unruly Young beasts with my Airjet 25 R and they raised me like a Young Beast should be raised, like a human and not a monster.

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