Authors: Jonathan G. Meyer
- Thera -
2016 by Jonathan G. Meyer
Cover Art by Dawne Dominique
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or any other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written consent of the author except for brief quotes used in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination and are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Dedicated to all that believed in me, and didn’t think I was crazy.
Table of Contents
The journey lasted mere seconds. When it was over, and he opened his eyes, Al Clark knew that many light-years now separated him from home. To have his molecules disassembled and sent through an alien machine to be recombined on a planet far, far away was disconcerting—to say the least. This trip, however, was not the first time he made use of this technology, and he was not surprised by the sudden change of address. It was, however, the furthest trip he ever attempted.
Darkness surrounded him. Only the soft blue glow of the exit button pierced the black, and he could see little of his surroundings. A small light from his pocket allowed him to see enough to determine he was inside a ten-foot clear cube, identical to the one he left so far behind. The box was familiar and expected. It meant that the transporter had worked, and the trip was successful. He made it through alive.
The beam from his small, powerful light was unable to reach the walls outside the glass and gave the impression of an expansive interior. He waved his hand over the blue door icon on the wall, and an opening to the outside morphed into existence.
He stepped outside and was struck by the appearance of disuse. The view outside the teleporter showed all the signs of having been abandoned a long time ago. Silent equipment crowded the space leaving only small walkways, with pipes and ductwork crisscrossing the overhead, eventually heading towards the ceiling.
The room resembled a cave or a cavern; the walls smooth and seemingly cut from solid stone. This dark, crowded hollow was very similar to the basement of the Caretaker station back on Avalon. The difference between the two appeared to be minimal; both caverns had been unoccupied for a long time and silence ruled the dead air.
Fifteen feet outside the dusty glass of the teleportation box, a control station displayed softly lit indicators that to led him to believe the machine was operational. Al could not operate the controls and be inside the transport cube at the same time, so, for now, he was trapped where he was until he could find someone to assist him. These thoughts crossed his mind, but his focus was on the next objective.
Al Clark was on a mission. He was in search of a new home for the people he left behind. His immediate task was to perform a quick survey of this planet; assess its viability for human occupation, and then hopefully locate someone intelligent enough to operate the controls and send him back. In his backpack, he carried enough supplies to last one week unless he could find other provisions. By the look of things, his chances did not look good.
The long outdated information coaxed from the alien computer inside Overlook Mountain indicated this planet was a candidate for human colonization. When the records were added to the Caretaker database, more than a thousand years ago, the Earth-like world had proved ideal for the transplants placed upon it and supported a healthy, growing population.
The planet he recently left they called Avalon, and the long departed aliens that built the outpost they named, ‘The Caretakers.' When the research facility was found, along with it came technology to boggle the mind. It was the teleporter technology found in the outpost that allowed Al the opportunity to search for a friendlier planet on which his people could settle. A holographic program of the facility computer calling himself Tiro guided them through the outpost; introducing them to highly advanced technology centuries ahead of Earth.
Avalon is a beautiful world in many ways and referred to by many as a jewel among planets. Unfortunately, it is also infested with man-eating predators that refuse to share the bounty. The worst of the beasts, called
, chased the colonists from more than one location until the survivors were forced to seek shelter inside the cramped basement cavern of the Caretaker’s Overlook Mountain. They fought a good fight, but in the end were overwhelmed.
The village of Camelot, where the last attack occurred, was devastated. The Riktors and the animals which followed them came to the village en mass and with a vengeance. The beasts were problem solvers, and more intelligent than anyone had anticipated. As the head of security, he felt partially responsible for their fate. In his eyes, he had failed the settlement, and this excursion to research the possibility of a better world had given him a chance to make things right. He was determined to succeed.
Carefully he made his way to the lift that would take him to the level above. A fine layer of dust permeated everything, and particles liberated from the floor followed his footsteps; leaving a small cloud in his wake. The sounds produced by his passage echoed against a silent landscape.
He found a lift that climbed the wall, and it squealed when it first started but worked. He rode the open elevator up one hundred feet to the ceiling, the entire time trying to see what he could in the massive, unlit cavern. From his perch, it looked long abandoned and forgotten. The basement appeared disused, but he knew there were other rooms in this complex, and he would need to check those before he could make any serious determinations.
The belief was that the outpost he now explored would be similar to the one on Avalon as they were both constructed by the Caretakers. This planet, as well as the one on Avalon, was one of many seeded by the benevolent race of ancient aliens. The information provided him allowed a sense of familiarity, and he made his way to the Library, which should be the next room above.
The library was in the same condition as the basement cavern. Quiet, dark and deserted. Dead workstations and dark monitors sat silent, with nothing to indicate they could help in his search. It was, however, not the library he expected. This room was different, with square hatches where hatches shouldn’t be, and it was missing the usual site-to-site transporter in the center of the room; the standard means of transport inside the Caretaker outpost on Avalon.
It was a boxy room, as tall as it was wide, with workstations occupying the four corners. One-inch data cubes, stored in cabinets by each station, held information gleaned from their scientific observations. If the work areas had power, he could have learned a lot by reading the data stored in those transparent cubes. But, that did not appear to be an option.
The room is in disarray, with data cubes strewn across the floor. Like the other rooms, everything is coated with a layer of undisturbed dust, and Al realizes how truly alone he is.
Three five-foot square hatches, centered on three of the four walls called for his attention. He chose one at random and moved to the one on his right. When he waved his hand over the control button, the door surprisingly stuttered open, and before him lay a spacious Hangar Bay. A hangar bay unlike the one on the side of Overlook Mountain.
This space for aircraft was accessed from above and included a large metal door covering a thirty-foot circular shaft cut through the stone ceiling. The hangar bay on Avalon had a holographic camouflaged door to the side, where the ships flew in and out. Of course, it was halfway up a mountain. This outpost was clearly not the same.
He swung his pocket light around the hangar, shedding some of its light on a small craft pushed up against one wall. Al moved closer for a better look. The small shuttlecraft was unlike the colony shuttles; an alien ship that was not parked or pushed out of the way, but crashed and abandoned where it fell. Its canted position, scattered debris, and a scorched wall told the tale.
The rest of the room was similar to what he was used to, with maintenance bays, storage compartments, and a wide area for landing vehicles. The hatch he used to enter appeared to be the only exit, not counting the thirty foot round hole above him. This room was also missing the teleporter cube. It was like Avalon, but not like Avalon, and it appeared the people that once occupied this outpost left in a hurry.
He returned to the library and crossed to the hatchway on the left side of the room. While the square door activated he thought,
the teleporter, the lift, and the doors work—but nothing else. Is the complex running on emergency power?
On the other side of the hatch was a round metal room. It was not large, with only a ten-foot circumference and a slender control pedestal conspicuously placed in the center. The dust was thicker in here, with a gritty quality approaching sand. After blowing the dust off the top of the pedestal, Al uncovered a single glowing blue button.
One button to do what?
He opted to see what lay behind hatch number three before finding out.
The third hatch led to sleeping quarters. Similar in design to the sleeping room at Overlook, but this place was not in the pristine, undisturbed condition they discovered at the previous research facility. Food dishes lay abandoned on the desktops, half filled with a hardened unknown substance that sat next to the non-functioning food replicators. Even the bed coverings were in place; rumpled, rotted, and covered by a thin layer of sand.
There was nothing here to help him, and he began to become concerned. If this planet proved unacceptable, and he wanted to go back to Avalon, he would need someone to help him.
Tucked in a small pouch hung around his neck with the coordinates to return to Avalon was another address. His friend and colleague, Edward Florida, included a backup set of coordinates to another possible candidate. They were both useless unless he could find someone to operate the controls.
After searching the remainder of the outpost, and finding nothing helpful, he determined it was time to try the intriguing blue button in the small round room.
He hesitated only a second and touched his finger to the glowing icon. Dim lighting came on and lit the interior, allowing him to get a better look at the space. The walls were a faded blue, and smooth. The interior was stark, and the hatch he used was the only adornment on the walls. The control pedestal, the entrance, and a small hatch in the ceiling completed the furnishings.
A few seconds later the room shifted, groaned, and straining to lift its weight; it unwillingly began a slow ascent.
It is an elevator! And it’s going up—but to where?
Al grabbed the control column and held his breath. The lift vibrated and rattled as it rose until a final tortured squeal stopped the upward movement, and the hatch in the ceiling was forced downward by obstructions above. The hum of the lift stopped shortly after the elevator stopped, sparks flew from the control console, and the already dim lighting went out. He pressed the button several times to no avail. The lift was stuck.
The hatch he used to enter was automatically locked closed, but it occurred to Al that he would find only the wall of the shaft on the other side. It was an unlikely exit. He had one possible chance at escape—the small distorted hatch six feet above his outstretched hands.
Up to this point, Al had tried to conserve his energy. But this was one of those situations where he had little choice. It was the kind of excuse even his overly cautious wife, Elizabeth, would be unable to contest. Al Clark had an ace up his sleeve, and he decided it was time to play it.
He whispered, “The metal of a man is measured by what is inside,” and began the process to change him from an ordinary person to something more.
The recently replaced power pack in his chest provided additional energy to the systems of his body, and when he opened his eyes after the transformation, the discreet indicator on the side of his enhanced field of view reported power levels above ninety percent. He was good to go.
The power surged through him, and he welcomed the feeling. It was an addictive state of being. When in normal mode, he was only marginally better than the average human, but while in enhanced mode, he was capable of things most people could only imagine.
He appears no different than anyone else, but Al Clark is a man with a cybernetic body and a human brain. Some would call him a Cyborg, but Al believes that title brought to mind negative implications of science experiments gone wrong, so he referred to himself as a man with a prosthetic body.
One of his abilities while in enhanced mode is the capacity to jump as high as thirty feet. He raised his titanium reinforced arms and used that power to propel himself towards the ceiling hatch. The already damaged obstruction yielded somewhat, and he was forced to step back as sand filtered through widened gaps.
He positioned himself and tried again, this time, a little harder. The hatch gave way and forced its way up to sail out of sight. Sand immediately began pouring through the hole, leaving a pile on the floor three feet tall before it finally slowed to a stop. One more jump and he stood above ground, the hole beside him, in blinding sunlight.
Filters activated in his eyes and the dazzling glare of the sun faded to something more tolerable. He turned a complete circle, slowly, and then again using the maximum magnification his robotic eyes allowed. All around him stretched sand dunes, and little else—as far as his high-tech eyes could see.