|"The Slugs were fought off by a Tank utilizing its range, and several Marines with salt shakers"|
|Journey, part 1: The ocean floor|
|Date: ||04/20/02 09:04|
|Game Type: ||Other|
|Report Rating: , # of Ratings: 1, Max: 8, Min: 8|
Lifetime Rating for citizenKane: 8.2143
Today we shall take a trip with the imagination, and from the imagination. You sit in front of your computer in your chair. Perhaps there is noise in the background, or perhaps there isn’t. Maybe you hear that constant chattering of the TV, or some talking in a room far away. Perhaps you have work to do, homework to finish, a job you’re getting ready to go to, mail waiting to be checked. There is always something that demands your attention. Today, we will leave all that behind— only briefly!— and take a trip far, far away. We will take a journey all across the earth of the present, to the fantastic future, and the forgotten past. We will go to places that lie beyond the imagination, yet they only can be realized in the imagination. We will travel to the future, past and present. You will not even leave your chair, though it will have felt like you did.
First, imagine the following: the silence of space. No noise, no disturbances, nothing but the star-spangled sky and the creamy, translucent band, the Milky Way.
There is something in the distance. A spaceship, called the Wanderer, not very long or very thick. In fact, it’s quite small. Now this spaceship was traveling through space in the general vicinity of an unnamed star. Or at least it had no name known to the people on the Wanderer.
Now there were several things special about this ship. First, it had arrived just in time to witness a disaster. The odds that a spaceship would have entered the system at that exact time were slim. After the incident, people wondered if it was coincidence that brought the spaceship there, or some greater force that called them to the area. Second, this spaceship had a Magician aboard. It was one of the few that did.
A Magician is not a magician in our sense of the word. A magician is not a creator of illusions and a master of foolery, though a magician could certianly be those things if he or she wanted to. A magician works magic— powerful feats of magic that defy the laws of physics. They could dazzle the imagination with brilliant sparks and flashes and leaping gouts of fire, or they could reach into your mind and destroy your imagination, twisting it to eternal nightmare. Or they could reach into your soul and rend it from your body. They could sense your movements, sense your feelings, anger, hatred, all stripped naked for the Magician to see, examine, observe. Though, they could not read thoughts. Not even the greatest of Magicians— his name was Goden— could read thoughts. But they could sense everything near them, and with concentration, sense things beyond. This Magician was concentrating, because he could sense that something about this star system was not right and he wanted to find out exactly what.
“Star 01AF45 hexidecimal, in range of scanners, has nine planets, four hard, four gas giants, and one ensnared,” read the technician. “First and second have extremely high tempatures, first no atmosphere, second posionous, third has correct tempatures but posionous atmosphere, fourth low tempatures and hospitable but much-too-thin atmosphere.” As he read aloud from the sensor readouts, the magician sat silently behind him, focused. “We may be able to stop for a moment at the fourth, for restocking and all that, but seeing as we stopped a couple months ago—”
The Magician interrupted him. “Tell me about the fourth.”
“Well, uh, it’s very red. About one-third proper gravity, oxygenous atmosphere but much too thin to sustain life, uh, large mountains and—”
“Could it sustain life?”
“Um, no big animals or anything, maybe some bacteria or something. Oh man.”
“Hmmm...” the Magician said. He had gotten up out of his chair.
“Why do you ask?”
The Magician said, slowly, “Let’s... land on that fourth planet.”
“Huh? Oh... Sir?”
“I sense something... just take us down. Okay?”
“Er... okay.” He hastily added, “Sir.”
The Magician sat back down. He seemed troubled. He sat there, head down, and he sat that way for a long time.
The small spacecraft Wanderer descended slowly to the surface of the craggy red planet.
* * *Picture, if you will, a research vessel, painted yellow, with all sorts of contraptions and gadgets sticking out— radar towers, radio antennae, watch towers, cranes, lifeboats, and all sorts of boxes and buildings on deck. Not far away were its escorts, two dark and grey destroyers, floating unflinchingly in the pacified Atlantic. The moonlight shone off the muted waves, while the stars sparkled above. Above was the moon, a stately white disc that seemed to be looking down from its vista in the heavens. Below the moon was Mars, an unflinching red star in the sky.
Outside, the ocean moved with the smallest of turbulence, and the atmosphere was perfectly still. Inside the ships, the atmosphere was far from still...
Inside the research vessel, appropiately codenamed Atlantis: a man named Banon walked quickly down a narrow hall and through a narrower door that he had to duck to get through. He entered a low-celinged room of relatively large length and width, though it was still small. Dozens of technicians in a cramped area, sitting at rows of tightly packed consoles. Upon Banon’s entrance, they immediately stopped what they were doing, all of them, and looked up.
“OKAY, people!” Banon clapped his hands. He spoke rapidly. “We only have a limited time until daylight, so we gotta do this and gotta do this quick. And keep silent— if the Spainish find us here, they’re gonna be pissed and worse, our secret exposed. Very bad!” He started walking rapidly up and down the isles, hands behind his back. “Go-no-go! Everybody go? Give me a thumbs up, everybody. Okay, good. Thumbs down, anybody? All go! Let’s go! Gogogo!” Banon clapped again. He stopped in the middle of an aisle, whipped around and barked to a woman to his left, “Submarine okay? (It was actually a submersible, but the woman didn’t correct him.) Don’t say anything— just give me thumbs up or thumbs down. Thumbs up? Good. Set him off.” The technician put on a headset and started talking rapidly. Banon turned around. “Okay, we’re going to have no talking tonight, or as little talking as possible! Don’t say anything when you can give a hand signal! We have to do this as fast as possible! Talking takes time. Hey you—” he turned to the female technician again— “thumbs up still? Okay!” Turned around again. “Problems? If you have a problem, just shout ‘hey’ and give a thumbs down. Don’t talk unless you absolutely have to! Takes time! We have none!” Banon said this all really fast.
“Hey!” someone shouted.
“What?” Banon turned around.
“Submersible away!” She gave a thumbs up.
“Okay!” Banon began talking, if possible, more rapidly and charged than ever. “This is the moment of truth, people! Mission is all-important! We have—” he clapped his hands— “to pull—” he clapped again— “this off! So everyone, get to work! You there— what’s our progress?”
“Submersible approching target fast. ETA 2 minutes.”
“Okay. That’s good! So... um...” And for the first time since he entered the room, Banon had nothing to say. Banon was one of those people who always had to be moving his mouth.Then he had an idea: “Patch me through! I want to talk to the man in the submersible!”
The female techician with the headset flashed a thumbs up, and tossed Banon a headset. The headset missed its target and hit someone in the back of the head.
“Ow!” he said
“Hey! No talking.” The man rubbed his skull and threw Banon the headset. With haste and deft, Banon put it on and asked, “Hello?”
220 feet below the water, a small submersible, its bright yellow hue tinted a muddy dark color by the murky depths, fell silently downward. It had no visible doors, only one thick front window, and two unmoving propellors.
Inside the tiny cabin sat a thin man, his head touching the celing and shoulders nearly touching the walls. He was wearing a headset, a uniform, and nothing else. The dim overhead light cast pale shadows across his face and body. The cabin was extremely small— the back entrance was only several inches behind his chair, and every switch was within a short reach.
A cackle on the radio. Then silence, a sharp spike of static, and more silence. Then a voice, marred by the cackles and crackles of static: “Hello?”
The man responded, quite nervously. “Uh, hello.”
“Uh... 1 minute, I think. Yeah. 1 minute, 6 seconds. No, actually, 1:02.”
“That’s nice. See anything?”
“Er... nothing but darkness.”
“Try turning your headlights on.”
He hit a switch on the low celing, barely above his head.
With no sound at all, the submersible’s headlights turned on, illimunating the ocean.
“Okay. WHAT do you see?” said Banon, the voice on the radio.
“Nothing at all?”
“No. Uh, absolutely nothing.”
“Not even fish?”
“Try orienting yourself downward.”
There were several levers and knobs on the right side of the control panel. The man in the submersible took one of the knobs and gave it a 45-degree twist.
The submersible made no sound, but it started turning, rotating downward. Not even either of the twin propellors made the slightest movement, but the sub turned.
“ETA?” said Banon over the radio.
The sub turned downward, and came to rest at a 45 degree angle, its lights aimed at the bottom of the ocean. Then its propellers moved up— turning in reverse, silently, slowly, kicking up some bubbles. Then they slowed down, the submersible slowing down with them, until they both came to rest. The submersible was not moving.
“See anything now?”
“The ocean floor, yes.”
“None at all. Just sand. Sediment.”
“You don’t see anyting? At all?”
“You’re pretty close to the ocean floor there. Still don’t see anything?”
“You’re ABSOLUTELY sure.”
There was a long pause.
Silence from the radio, and then, the voice of Banon, marred by static:
“Orient yourself... horizontal. Yes.”
“Okay, but I don’t see what good it will do...”
He reached for the knob and gave it a 45-degree twist. He then looked out the window.
“Nothing but the ocean floor... hold on...”
He looked out the square window. The window was small, no more than a yard by a yard, but he sat so close to it that it engulfed his vision. As he panned upward, something came into view. Roughly thirty feet away there was a spire jutting out of the ocean floor. Not a spire of rock, but a spire constructed of dull stone brick. It was clearly man-made. It had probably been under the ocean floor for millenia, but it showed no signs of decay.
“Hey,” said the radio.
The top of the spire came into view. The spire was skinny, about three feet thick, and only about twenty feet tall. The top of the spire was reminicent of a belfry. In fact, it looked like a small bell tower... except it didn’t have a bell in it.
“Hey!” said the radio.
It was a belfry, but instead of a bell, there was a crystal, a giant cut oval of what looked like diamond... except it was changing color. It was now shining with a cool blue, like a sapphire. It pulsed, like a beacon.
A beacon, it was. He was sure of it.
A beacon of life in a dying universe...
“Hey! You there?” said the radio.
Then it changed color. A deep, serene emrald green. Then it was a shinging yellow, then a transfixing orange, then an angry, bright red.
“Hey! Do you copy?”
It pulsed slowly, then quicker. Violent, agitated. It seemed to flash, angry, brighter and brighter, as if its red light would consume all. The bringer of doom.
“DAMMIT! RESPOND TO ME!” declared the radio.
The bringer of doom, to kill a dying race... He knew he had found something. What was lost must not always be found. He couldn’t see. You are blind, but soon you will see. Inside the crystal was something. Invisible, unsensable, completely incorperal, but he knew it was there, like a hidden secret. A secret, buried under the ocean for sixty thousand years. It pulsed brighter, filling his vision, a steadfast red light that becomed him, became a part of him, filled him, smothering all concious thought as it seemed to devour his existince. It will save existince, or be its fatal blow.
The crystal flashed brighter and brighter, until it seemed like it would engulf everything he knew, and replace it with a world of red.
Two thousand feet above, a man in green uniform walked across the deck of the research vessel Atlantis. He was walking quickly, but something caught his eye. The water looked strange. He slowed, then stopped. The ocean was glowing. Pulsing. A pulsing angry red, illimunating the surface of the waves for miles around...
There was a horrible blast. It shattered the ocean into a fury of waves, and a horrible, gut-wrenching— noise— blasted through the air. The research vessel Atlantis groaned; it seemed to be rending itself apart beneath his feet. It was rending itself apart. Banon could feel the ground wrench beneath his feet, and the air was filled with the screams and shrieks of the people around him. They sounded like the screams of wraiths and the shrieks of a banshee.
The research vessel Atlantis, and its two destroyer escorts, sunk slowly into the agitated waves, which were still pulsing that red color like a fading heartbeat. The angry light stopped pulsing and shone steadily for a while, then it faded away completely and the waves calmed down.
In the sky above, the moon looked down from heaven, and below it was red Mars, a steady, unblinking eye.
* * *The Wanderer landed on the red planet at about the same time.
The technician said, “Sir. We’ve landed.”
The Magician sat in his chair, head down, as hard as stone.
Suddenly the Magician jerked. Every muscle in his body jerked; his arms flung outward, his head jerked, and his legs gave a spasm. The Magician fell off his chair. Like a seizure, except Magicians never get seizures. The technician jerked, too, but only slightly, and an invisible icy hand seemed to sieze his throat.
The magician got up, gasping, breathing hard. “Did you feel that?”
“...I felt something. My bones are like ice...”
“You said that third planet has a poisonous atmosphere?”
“And everything else was normal, right? Able to sustain life?”
“You’re absolutely sure.”
“...as far as I can tell.”
And the Magician said no more for quite a while.
Next week, our journey will continue. This time we did not go too far from home, but week by week we will go farther and farther. We will exit the solar system, but we will also visit to the Earth in the near future, which will take us farther than any trip into space could take you. Our journey will continue— not beyond Earth, but beyond the Earth as we know it.
The journey will continue April 27, 2002.