by Candi Bartlett | art by jennibcreative
Dedicated to Uncle Roger, who always had a story to tell, and always wanted to hear one.
Contains themes of violence, suicide, and sexual situations.
By the time the R&D dome is hit all personnel and active projects have been removed. When the dome does not bust, Davis reports a team of Travelers have taken a terrain vehicle out to the perimeter.
“Sir, they are scanning the dome. We are still unable to get into their signal, but we’ve gained some abilities. High probability they are running biological scans.”
West moves away from the commotion in the motor pool. The moon is a disaster, it’s as a good a time as any to take field reports. “Have they destroyed our eyes?”
“Negative. The perimeter cameras are in sight but there have been no specialized attacks. Satellites 2 through 4 are operational.”
“R&D is closed down?
“Yes. No life or tech signs present.”
“And Hub 2?” West is running down all the parts of the world that might still be intact. The list was way too short.
“Hub 2 and above ground transit tubes between CitDome, R&D, and SecDome are intact. The Residential generator is out.”
“Is Devlin with you?”
“Tell her to be point on routing life support until they can get groups from the ResBunker to the habitat. Report if the R&D Travelers do anything unusual.”
New explosions rumble the dome around him. Everyone looks up to see enormous balls of fire erupt against the dome and slide down the side. Agents new and old file out of buildings, elevators, and jeeps. Recruits and volunteers exit dormitories without full surface gear. Bodies pour out of the motor pool fully equipped for a breach.
West runs toward the center of the activity with a pink glow in his helmet. “Davis, what the hell is going on out there?”
Travelers appear in the distance on the other side of the dome. A wall of bodies covers the airlock. West sweeps around and sees they cover half the perimeter. That’s a lot of bodies. He slows immediately. He gets quieter, like whispering into his own head is safer somehow. “Are you seeing this?”
In SecOp Davis is as still as he is. “Yes, Sir.” Her eyes flip around the wall. “It’s a distraction. Turn around again.”
The flames have disappeared but the destruction is more than enough to see. Hub 2 is gone. The tubes from R&D and the hub have been obliterated. If they can’t crack the dome from the top, apparently they are coming in the front door. The Travelers part to make room for a terrain vehicle approaching.
“Sir, Finn has some intel on the missile. If it’s any indication of their weaponry, they will get through that airlock and blast door. Fast.”
Hundreds of New Earth citizens and agents stand around West. They all look at him. They all wait for orders. The Travelers surround them, waiting for a move. “Davis, evacuate. Now.”
West looks at the citizens around him. He stands in the dirt rotunda, a quarter mile ahead of the doors in front of a vibrant green grass mound. Everything has frozen for a moment, but the purple hydrangea bushes in the center tremble in the wake of the bustle. The motor pool and armory is to one side, the dormitories to the other. The space between most of the recruits and West and all of the gear is too large. They would have to make it smaller. West runs toward the armory, his comm blue. “Agents, recruits, volunteers – full surface gear, now. Willis, as soon as they’re covered load those volunteers up – big guns, little guns, explosives. If they can push a button and pull a pin they get the gear.” He keeps running until he’s inside the open garage. “Watts! I need these tanks in the center of the welcome field, face them out in every direction. Are they ready?”
Watts stands up from the opposite side of a jeep. He’s a big guy. All muscle, night skin, with a voice that quakes. His smile is as big as he is. “Sir, they are always ready to go.”
There is one thing the Agents of New Earth always had to hold back on in military development. Flight, water training, all possible but some things could only be tested to a limit. West smiles back. The adrenaline beating behind his eyes makes it possible. “Let’s blow some stuff up.”
Agent Watts nods and takes off deep into the garage, flipping switches and pulling on his gear as he goes.
The first shell hits the airlock. Outside, smoke slowly rises and quickly dissipates. Dan runs back to his spot directly in its path, checking in on every unit he can. “Devlin, are you under? Do you have everythi—” A hand gives him two sharp pats on the shoulder.
“Everything we need is under, Dan.” Devlin looks somehow agile in her surface gear. Of course, she designed it. West smiles again. He is spreading a surprising amount of cheer during all the impending doom.
“You shouldn’t be here.” He says. “If something happens to you…”
Devlin rolls her eyes at him. “I’ll be fine. Did you think I wasn’t going to look them in the face?” She ended with a brow furrow.
A second shell hits the blast doors. West shakes his head and looks back at the noise. “No. I guess I really didn’t.”
His comm flashes as each unit in the dome reports. Watts has the tanks in place. West looks back to see him standing on top of the biggest tank they have, hands on a turret West forgot they had. To each side of the rotunda agents and citizens stand at the ready. False light and fire reflects off of their helmets.
A third blast hits, breaching Security
250 Agents, 200 civilians, and one astrophysicist erupt into battle.
Travelers file into the dome. West and Devlin unload the first wave of fire, the first bodies through the opening drop almost immediately. The travelers are fast. They keep coming, sliding around the opening down the inner perimeter, firing back. Their weapons are similar to the agents but they are not all carrying the same ammunition. Some of the Travelers are firing bursts of light. It isn’t until one agent is hit that West realizes the light bursts are chemical. The hole in the agent’s suit spreads. In seconds, it eats through the agent inside.
“Devlin, it’s chemical, get some cover! Watts, HIT THAT DOOR!”
A New Earth missile whizzes overhead and West dives aside. The explosion throws Traveler bodies in and out of the now bigger hole.
“Yeah, baby!” Watts shouts. More Travelers pour in over the bodies of their fallen soldiers. Watts sprays rapid fire. “Keep comin’!”
“Agents, go!” West shouts. The front line rushes forward, sidearms and machine guns flash all around. West runs forward and meets a Traveler’s abdomen with his right fist; he jams the iron knee of his suit into its’ helmet. It shatters inward, shredding the Traveler’s face. West doesn’t take a moment to look at it. He’s already moving forward to the next in line, one clean shot to the head. He has no interest in what they look like. He lost interest when Joey screamed from across the moon.
Travelers are everywhere. Small groups break off and head into the buildings nearest the field searching for hidden life. They find none. All citizens left above ground are out in the open. The private MAGs and underground habitat are hidden from detection for the time being. The same shielding lines the trunks of explosives rigged in the dormitories and administration buildings.
The dorms blow when the Travelers reach the second floor. The building comes crashing down. Half the Travelers in hand to hand combat pause and turn their heads just long enough for hidden sharpshooters to do some damage. West is racing back toward the motor pool dodging bullets and chemical blasts, trying to avoid running into his own agents when a Traveler arm appears in front of his face and he hits the ground hard on his back.
Two Travelers stomp on his chest, their heavy boots breaking ribs. He rolls sharply to the left taking one of them down. When he turns back the nose of a chemical weapon makes a sharp clink! against the face of his helmet. Before he can react a bullet breaks through the front of the Traveler’s head, glass and blood blow forward, and the Traveler crumbles.
A New Earth terrain truck screeches to a stop inches from West’s face. The Agent hanging out the door points their weapon straight and fires over his head. The second Traveler dies.
“Are you just going to lay there or do we fight?” Glouser’s voice swims into his brain. She holds her hand out and West takes it to stand. “Things are not going so well.”
West smiles. Again. “They could be worse.”
The defenders of New Earth start herding Travelers together, surrounding groups of 10 or 20 then hitting the ground so Watts take them out from above. Traveler’s stop flooding the dome. Bodies from both sides litter the ground but the fighting continues. Wilson and Myers take the two largest tanks left and block the hole in the dome. West and Glouser take down every Traveler they can on their way through the chaos, telling agents to fall back, ordering recruits to the private MAG access. Main Administration explodes then, blowing brick and Traveler bodies out the front door.
Davis breaks in to all Team Leaders. “Davis reporting. There is still a presence in the Miranda Basin, but the main ship and at least half of the smaller ships are leaving orbit. Dr. Marrin’s team has taken care of the wounded. They are ready for intake.”
West contact Watts and tells him to get as many agents as he can and head into the private MAG. Glouser breaks into West’s comm. “Dan, they are not here for us.”
A tank erupts behind them.
“What do you mean?”
Glouser trots backwards and fires. “I spoke with one of them before I killed him. He said we are in their way.”
West pauses. It's just a beat but he understands. New Earth is not the burning world he has been trying to save; not the broken smoldering ground he has been dreaming about.
“Devlin, they’re not after us!” The remaining Travelers return fire as agents run for cover. “Devlin, do you read?”
“Dan, I’m here. Where are you?”
“We’re on our way underground, do the same. The Travelers aren’t here for us.”
“What did you find out?”
West and Glouser lift a wounded agent off the ground and keep running through the garage. “Earth.” West says. They make it to the elevator and pull the lift doors closed while the building shakes, a hundred citizens and agents inside. West hits the button and leans against the cold steel. They quickly descend. He doesn’t know how many of his agents made it under. He doesn’t know how many citizens and agents make up the graveyard on the surface. He only knows one thing. “They’re headed to Earth.”