Re: The Reactor Core (The Atomic Punk’s Archive)

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The Atomic Punk

Character Contest 51 – Alien Nation

Last entry and another personal favorite: The Tithonian Devil. I should expand this story.

The Tithonian Devil


Mars, 15 April 2032 A.D.
12:25 Zulu
The three-man rescue team pulled up to the ridge on their schooners. They stood in awe. Before them lay the “ruins” of the mythical city of Tithonia. Commander Michael Padrovski snapped back to the mission. Red Eagle had lost contact with the reconnaissance team.

Padrovski noticed what he thought could be an abandoned road that wound its way down the ridge and toward the ruins. The rescue team started their descent into the valley. Though rough, the team was able to negotiate the trail. All of a sudden, Captain Bradshaw’s schooner lurched. Bradshaw tumbled down the rocky face. The schooner rolled as well, landing on Bradshaw and rupturing his suit. Padrovski and Mission Specialist Darshana Sangma watched in horror as Bradshaw lashed violently. Everyone, including the crew back at the Red Eagle, heard his blood-choked screams over the comm. Then… silence… Not even the whispers of the Martian wind.

Commander Padrovski pressed forward. They were too close to the homing beacon to give up hope on the reconnaissance team. Sangma broke the silence with a prayer. She followed Padrovski into what now seemed the mouth of hell. Before she could catch up to Padrovski, the battery on her schooner died.

As he drove into the village of anomalous rock formations, the Commander pointed toward what looked like the supposed power generator. Between its “buttresses” there was an emergency tent. Padrovski’s hopes rose. He dismounted and rushed into the tent. Inside, there was nothing: no teammates living or dead, no equipment, not even the beacon itself. The Martian Maniac re-calibrated his homing sensor twice. It kept saying the same thing. He was right on top of the beacon.

Padrovski exited the tent. The sensor quit then suddenly picked up a new beacon. Spooked, but undaunted, he climbed back on the schooner and headed toward the signal. He did not stop to notice that he had left Sangma stranded.

The beacon led Padrovski to what was said to be the temple. Approaching from behind, it looked like a dome atop a trapezoid reminiscent of a Meso-American pyramid or possibly the Dome of the Rock. He circled the massive block. He found an obvious entrance, a long stairwell leading to an open archway in the dome. By estimate, the area of the base was 360 feet by 180 feet. It stood roughly 150 feet tall.

The Commander began to wish that he were the mission’s lead scientist not its Saint Bernard. A sudden flashing blue light from the top of the stairs brought him back into focus. He checked his sensor to confirm. It was the emergency beacon. Too far to walk, he first made an open channel call for survivors to respond. The only reply was from Sangma. She told Padrovski that she had repaired her schooner and was en route.

Padrovski acknowledged. Eager to find the recon team, he raced his schooner up the escalade. Sangma reached the rendez-vous at the base of the temple. She hailed the Commander several times. She could barely hear a garbled voice through the static. The comm abruptly ended transmission with an ear-piercing whine.

The Martian wind began to howl. A giant dust storm rolled over the ridge. Darshana’s heart froze. Her eyes welled with tears. Her only chance for shelter, possibly survival, was inside the temple. She gunned the schooner.

Having escaped the devil wind, Darshana looked all down at the valley. It was now engulfed in a surreal cloud of Martian sand. She chose to enter the temple in case the wind carried it higher. She frantically tried to re-establish contact with Commander Padrovsky.

The halls in the temple were massive. Large enough to navigate the schooner. Despite the high beam tri-lights, it was darker than the Martian midnight. Darshana drove wildly until she reached what she believed to be the heart of the temple.

Without warning, the chamber was illuminated. Propped in front of the young astronaut was the corpse of an alien. This was more than a temple, it was a tomb! History erased itself before Darshana’s eyes.

Darshana awoke months later in a hospital bed on earth screaming, “Diabolus Tithonius!”