Monday, February 23, 2015

Eternal Tiamat - Chapter 1

"Epic Battles"
By Darrell Winfrey

The day is overcast with a cool light mist in the air.  In the distance, an occasional rumble of thunder breaks the silence.  The evening rush hour sees only a few brave souls on the road or on the sidewalks.  This scene in a major metropolitan is unusual and a bit unsettling.  Should someone choose to take a stroll, one would see cars abandoned in the middle of the streets and some even overturned.  Buildings are marked with large gouges in the cement, broken windows, and entire walls missing on the upper floors.

Steven Jorge observes the initial aftermath peering out the window of a small diner and realizes that there is more to come.  He also knows that the thunder in the distance is definitely not thunder, a fact that is now shared by others hiding inside the diner with him.  Some try to get a glimpse of the action, while others stay as far away from the windows as possible.

A frazzled young lady behind Steven nervously asks him, "Ar... Are they l.. leaving?"

"I seriously doubt it," he replies trying to mask the quiver in his own voice.

A look of dread replaces her nervous expression.  Steven lifts his camera and points the powerful zoom lens in the direction of the pink and bluish lightning.  The flashes appear within and below the clouds followed by rumbles of thunder.  As he zooms in closer, he can see the tiny figures darting in and out of the clouds, sometimes crashing into each other.  He thinks about the scenes in movies where people stand in the streets watching deadly battles between super heroes and super villains.  To witness it in real life is nothing like the movies and can be downright frightening.  Almost as if to challenge that thought, Steven stands up, opens the door, and steps outside on the sidewalk. 

There are many others outside but mostly looking from behind walls or cars.  A few of them have taken out their phones trying to capture some of the action.  Most of the commuters already left their vehicles and ran several blocks away from the action.  There are a few bodies on the streets, possibly trampled by the crowd earlier.  Some are being checked by paramedics and firemen, while others are not touched.  Many of the nearby emergency vehicles were abandoned earlier because they ended up too close to the epicenter of the battle.  A few news crews can be seen on the ground trying to keep their distance while also getting exclusive footage.  If there are any helicopters in the air, they aren't visible.  Maybe they were smart enough to keep their distance.

A crashing sound resounds from above as bricks and chunks of reinforced concrete fall from the top of one of the skyscrapers.  Steven notices the entangled figures falling to the ground as they bounce from one building to the next in a pinball fashion.  They hit the street with so much force that it caves in and produces a shock wave that shakes windows and hits Steven with a jolt.  Less than two blocks away, the gladiators emerge from the hole still fighting as if nothing had happened.  Watching them interact is almost like trying to capture the motion of a bee's wings with your eyes.  Their arms and legs are a blur as they strike and attempt to strike each other.  Since they both are wearing dark colors, they are difficult to tell apart at times.  One thing he does notice is that both of them slow down significantly if either one of them emits a burst of energy.  Their "slow" is still much faster than any human, but they are more observable with the naked eye at that speed.

Steven raises his camera and tries to capture the action on high speed video.  For some reason, his camera is drawn to the one in the black outfit.  The skin of this one has a purplish tint to it and he, at least it appears to be a he, has no hair.  The way he looks seems almost as if he sprang directly from the pages of a comic book.  He has clearly made himself out to be the perfect villain.  Steven knows at this point, that this creature wouldn't give a second thought about grabbing a person and hurling her directly at the other one.

The other being looks almost entirely like any average human, although he is slightly larger and taller than average.  His look resembles that of a typical comic book hero with the square jaw and all.  His uniform is mostly dark blue with hints of red here and there.  The red markings look like glyphs and don't always appear to be in the same place for very long.  The dark haired hero doesn't seem to be constantly in motion like the other one.  Maybe the villain, who is clearly smaller, knows he needs more speed to match the force delivered by the larger one.

 Suddenly, there is a bright blue and pink flash with a loud crackle.  Debris and a couple of vehicles go flying.  One SUV is flying directly toward Steven and the cafe he was just in.  He still films a second longer before he realizes what's about to happen.  He quickly lowers his camera with the intention of running, but realizes there is no way he could avoid being hit.  Instead of running, he just crouches there with an arm across his face.  It's possible that the people in the diner are screaming but the only thing he can hear is the sound of the blood flow in his ears.  Suddenly, he feels a shock wave similar to the one he felt when the beings slammed into the street.  The large SUV crashes to the ground a few feet in front of him.  Glass shatters all over him delivering cuts here and there, but that is nothing compared to what should have happened.  It was almost as if it hit an invisible wall and then was pulled sharply to the ground.  For a second he thinks that maybe he misjudged the trajectory of the vehicle.  No, the SUV was definitely headed toward him as if it had been fired from a canon.  If it had been tossed into the air and was falling toward him in a greater arc, he would have had plenty of time to react and get out of the way.  The chatter in the diner is louder because all of the windows are now broken.  People have cuts from the glass but appear to be OK.  Some are angry while others are clearly rattled and looking at him with serious concern.  Steven quickly remembers that he needs to go around the SUV which is now blocking his view.

The beings are moving "slow" again.  The villain appears to be trying to get away, but the hero keeps tackling him causing them to crash into buildings and anything else in their way.  He must be angry that his opponent nearly killed and injured more people.  Eventually the super villain finds an opening.  The villain catches the hero during one of his stationary moments and sends multiple objects flying toward him at high speeds.  One of the objects happens to be the villain himself.   He manages to attract everything, including chunks of the building toward the hero, who appears to be unaffected by what is about to happen.   He clearly can absorb the damage and much more.  What the villain does next is a bit surprising.  Instead of hitting the hero, the villain curves around him from below and increases his speed considerably.  Steven is still capturing the action at a high frame rate and plans to repeatedly watch it later.  The villain shoots off skyward at a slight angle with a speed so fast that it causes a sonic boom and shatters what few windows remain.  Steven's ears are ringing.  The hero manages to repel the cars and debris but has to be careful not to turn them into deadly projectiles.  He floats straight up and surveys the damage.  Steven can't see the hero's face from that distance, but he can only assume that the great warrior is bothered by it.  The hero then flies off in the opposite direction from the villain.

Couldn't he have stayed to help fix things up a bit?

Some people are still reluctant to come out from their hiding places because there had been multiple lulls in the action before fighting resumed again.  Steven can only assume the beings were talking to each other during the lulls, but no one will ever know what they were saying.  People who claim to have heard them speak in the past say that it is some language that they have never heard with many syllables run together.  Choking dust is still in the air and Steven is pretty sure everyone's ears are ringing much like his.  After about 20 minutes, a few of the familiar sounds start coming back.  The muffled murmur of people talking nearby, sirens in the background, and a few cars starting are added to this metropolitan symphony.  People are helping the wounded get to the ambulances.  Steven has blood on his shirt from the glass shattering, but his injuries are nothing compared to some of the others he sees with broken legs and arms.  Steven begins capturing more footage before he feels like someone is starring at him.  He turns and looks at a man carrying another injured man, who is looking at him with this look of disgust.  Steven knows what the look is for, but he knows he needs to capture as much footage as he can at the battle scene.

Steven runs across a few more of the injured as he nears the hole in the street made by the impact.  He helps them up and hands them over to the paramedics and EMTs.  When he reaches the hole he doesn't immediately notice anything, but he does get footage from every possible angle.  Firefighters are rushing by him to put out fires that ignited nearby.  Steven remembers that the beings bounced between two skyscrapers before hitting the ground, so he captures some video and photos of the buildings.

He then notices his phone lighting up on his belt.  It isn't ringing or vibrating as it was apparently damaged during the rumble.  There are 26 missed calls from his wife and various people from his lab.  He calls his wife first as he knows he must. 

Cyann Jorge is a lady who keeps her composure through almost anything, except when it comes to her family.  Steven recalls a time when their youngest son had wandered off in a theme park.  He was lost for over two hours and she was frantic.  The park attendants bore much of her wrath as they appeared less than concerned about finding him.  They were simply trying not to cause her to panic more by keeping their composure, but she didn't see it that way.  In the end someone found their son in a photo booth.  Although he was four, he always followed instructions.  They had taught him to never talk to strangers so he wouldn't go with anyone who tried to take him to Guest Relations.  They radioed and passed along the word for Steven and his wife to come get him.  She hugged him for what seemed like an eternity.

Steven slowly dials his home number on the pad instead of using the contact list or voice dial.

Cyann answered the phone almost immediately.  "Steven?  Steven.  Is that you?  They said you went to downtown Halston.  Is that you?"

"Yes. It's me." he replied.

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah, I'm good."

She could tell from his voice that he was fine.  Once she had established this, she chided him.  "What were you thinking going there?  Why the hell didn't you answer your phone?"

"Well, it was..."

"You had us worried to death.  The disaster there is all over the news.  People are dead in the streets and everything.  You're an engineer, for God's sake, not a soldier or paramedic."

"I know. I know.  Steven assured her.  Baby, I'm fine.  There's nothing to worry about.  I have to go soon.   Let me speak to the boys."

"You can't right now.  I left them with the neighbor's daughter Alessa."

"Why did you do that?" Steven asks.

"Because I'm in the car driving somewhere," she reluctantly responds.

Although he already knows the answer, he asks, "Headed where?"

"To Halston to find you."


Halston is three and a half hours from their house.  Steven fusses at her about how dangerous it is here without thinking about his own disregard.  He convinces her to head back home and lets her know he will probably get home pretty late.  He makes a call to his boss to let her know that he is fine and to pass the word along to everyone else.

Steven had predicted that both creatures would end up in Halston based on satellite data that is able to trace the unique energy signatures produced and sometimes left behind by the beings.  The satellites were originally designed record the intensity of neutrino activity in order to better predict deadly solar flares.  He and a friend of his figured out that they might be used to also track the movement of the strange new visitors.  This was the first time he was able to accurately locate both of them before a battle.  Of course, these beings are so powerful, the best they can do with the information is warn people in such a way that won't cause panic.

The beings have only been here for a few months, and their fighting has caused considerable damage at times.  While their origins are unknown, it is highly likely that they are not from earth.  If they are earthly and were once human, they definitely aren't any longer.  Steven is a mechanical engineer working for a major defense contractor.  He is part of a team tasked with finding out how to contain or destroy these creatures before things get out of hand.

Steven walks about nine blocks to his car.  He learned from watching prior battles that they don't seem to like cars, or they absolutely love throwing them around and crushing them.  When he gets to his car, he encrypts and uploads his photos and videos to his cloud account.  He remembers almost losing crucial footage thanks to the curiosity of his two little angels at home. 

The road is desolate, so he manages to shave about 45 minutes off his trip without getting ticket.  When he arrives home, Cyann meets him at the door with a hug and a long kiss.  She notices his cuts and dried blood on his shirt but is just glad that he is home.  The boys are already in the bed, so he goes up to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight.

Before getting ready for bed, he spends some time watching the footage of the battle.  Nothing really stands out until he reaches the point where they crash through the street.  With his new camera he is able to slow the action down to a crawl.  First he notices that the impact was not made by the beings hitting the ground.  There appears to be some kind of energy field about 10 or 15 feet ahead of them that causes the damage and shock wave.  The other thing he notices is the final escape of the villain.  He doesn't have a way to detect the energy fields, but it appears that the villain creates one of these fields around the hero causing many objects to converge on him.  It doesn't seem to attract any specific type of objects because some of the cars and chunks of concrete fly toward him while others are ignored.  The villain is also drawn in but Steven notices that his trajectory didn't follow that of the other objects.  After rewinding and forwarding a few times, he realizes what he has seen.  The creature seems to have created some kind of artificial gravitation around the hero and then flew in under him.  He used this force to slingshot himself at a 45 degree angle behind the hero who is now encased in debris and crushed vehicles.  This is the same sling shot method used accelerate deep space probes when they approach planets.

He notices a similar field, when they resume fighting and sends the overturned truck flying his way.  First there was the bright flash which seems to originate around them instead of from one of them.  The truck wasn't thrown because he notices many other small objects ejected in other directions.  The hero has his back turned to the camera, but the villain appears to look directly at Steven as the vehicle begins its flight.  He freezes the frame as a chill runs through him.  A few frames later, the truck obscures the view of the fight and that's when Steven lowered the camera to protect himself.  The footage that follows clearly shows that something blocked the vehicle.  It is even crushed in a manner that indicates a front impact as well as the ground impact.  He is troubled by that look from the villain and wonders if the creature deliberately targeted him before the hero saved him.  How arrogant of him to think he is that important.

(This story is part of an interactive experience.  At various points throughout the story, you will be given the option to experience it from the perspective of other characters instead of the main character.  Sometimes the perspective change is temporary, while other changes are permanent.  Click on the decision link that appears at the end of such chapters when a decision point is reached.)

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