by Martin Maenza
A businessman with four arms climbed into the back of the Space Cab. “Antares Station,” he said in a rather flustered manner.
Once the man closed the door and settled in, the Space Cabbie flipped on the meter. “Rough day, huh?”
“Tell me about it!” the passenger said. “It’s one of those days that nothing seems to be going right. For once, it’d be nice for things to go perfect as planned, you know?”
“Ah, perfection can be overrated,” the driver cautioned as he pulled out. “When things are at the top point they can be, the only place you’ve got left to go is down. Can I tell you a story to illustrate my point?”
“Go ahead,” the passenger said. And with that, the Space Cabbie began his tale.
The warm golden sun peeked its head above the horizon of the planet’s pink-hued sky. Its very presence signified the start of another day in the harmonious lives of the planet’s inhabitants. Yet the shadows it would cast today would pale in comparison to the darkness that was about befall this world’s history.
Koncord was a plush tropical Eden that could satisfy every pleasure of its ten-billion natives. Its nonviolent society made it the perfect place in this sector of the universe. There was no trace whatsoever of any crime or hostilities on this peace-loving world. It was truly the essence of pure innocence incarnate.
All technological advancements were aimed toward benefiting those living on both the massive continent and the emerald oceans that covered seventy-eight percent of the planet. The grand majestic cities were patterned after ancient architecture of the early thirty-second century. People worked for the betterment of the community. No one went without having their needs met.
Though violence was forbidden and scarce on Koncord, the world did have a complex defensive system. It hadn’t been used in a few centuries but was kept operational in case of any violent attacks or invasions from hostile alien races.
A man of thirty-two years sat before the defense console, awaiting the regular report from the XA-VR 3000 sentinel satellite positioned in a stationary orbit above the world. He was a six-foot-three technological wizard. His short, midnight black hair covered the stem ends of his wire-framed corrective lenses. Thick, dark eyebrows outlined his deep hazel eyes. A thin mustache and beard completed his handsome portrait. A navy blue uniform fit snugly about his well-tanned, one-hundred-and-seventy-pound body.
Christened Lance Caleer Brandell, this specimen of a man was the sole operator of the defense complex. Though the computers were programmed to handle a majority of the work, Lance was the one who set them in motion. He was their human taskmaster.
A white light illuminated the control board, signifying an incoming call. Lance activated his two-way audio receptor. “This is satellite XA-VR 3000 reporting in to defense control,” said the mechanical sentinel. “Good morning, Lance, sir.” Human qualities were programmed into its communication protocols.
“Good morning, Xavier,” the commander responded. “Anything out of the ordinary?”
“Not at the present. Sunspot activity is beginning to stabilize; normalcy will be maintained in a one point two hours. An asteroid strayed from the belt of Caratos; it was eliminated it with the laser cannons. Atmospheric conditions are clearing, and the solar eclipse with Koncord’s third moon will occur on schedule. All conditions are present for a great day ahead.”
“In that case, old friend, I am going to get some breakfast. Elaine called me on the visi-phone twenty minutes ago.” Lance started to rise from his seat.
“Give my regards to Miss Aaron; I miss hearing her pleasant voice.”
“Will do, Xavier. I’ll give you a call later on.” The young man ended the transmission and headed for the door. Once he departed, the automated systems of the complex took over from the manual controls. Things would be fine while he was gone.
After climbing into the driver’s position of his sleek, sporty, two-seated airmobile, Lance activated the engines. The vehicle lifted free from the docking platform and joined others of its kind, hovering over the people movers below. Those conveyor walkways carried the daily workers from the residential areas of the city to the zones of commerce and industry. None of the thousands of people below realized what was forthcoming this day, and how it would drastically change everything.
Her straight auburn hair draped softly around her petite shoulders as she stood before the mirror. She stepped into a golden pants-suit and pulled it up over her creamy tan body. The material accentuated the slenderness of her long legs and clung to her buttocks and bosom areas. Pausing in front of the mirror, the young woman was satisfied with her appearance.
Just as she headed for the kitchen unit, a knock came on the door. Elaine Aaron rushed over to the portal, flung it open, and was caught in Lance’s warm embrace. “A few moments sooner, and you would have caught me quite indecent,” she teased.
“And I had to get caught up in traffic,” sighed Lance. He kissed her tenderly. “Oh, by the way, Xavier sends his regards. He wonders why you haven’t dropped by to the command center in days.”
“You better watch yourself,” the woman taunted. “Someday, he might just take over your job.” She turned around. “Zip me up, won’t you?”
Lance slowly glided the plastic device up the material toward her neck. “If he does, that will just give me more time to spend with you.” He nuzzled the back of her neck lovingly. She let out a little giggle.
“If you keep this up,” Elaine purred, “you’ll never have time to eat.”
“You’re right,” Lance agreed. “So, what are we having, anyway?” He followed her to the dining table next to the food-preparation unit. Moments later, two plates of batter-formed circles, hot off the griddle, were served along with scrambled eggs. “My favorites.”
“I should know that by now,” Elaine said as she brought over some beverages to the table. “How many mornings have I made them for you now? Thirty? Forty?”
Lance smiled. “Something like that.”
“By the way,” she said, “are you going to keep that promise you made me last week?”
“Which one was that?”
“About showing me the historical files. I have nothing to do today; I have time off from the office.”
“Today?” Lance asked. “Well, I have a load of paperwork to do.” He saw a slight pout starting to form on her lips. Her lashes danced across her pretty brown eyes.
“All right, Elaine!” Lance said. “Paperwork can wait. But tonight I’ll have to do it, no matter what happens.”
“Oh, thank you!” Elaine said, giving him a great big hug.
If space were not a silent void, one could almost hear the humming of the generators of the XA-VR 3000 satellite. These beating chambers pumped thousands of volts of electricity through out the sentinel’s systems as if it were life-giving plasma.
This energy, which had been recycled millions of times, first fed the most intricate logic circuits produced by this world’s leading scientists. These circuits included the unique human-like personality, a database of information with instantaneous recall capabilities, and a split-second relay to the rest of the satellite’s systems.
Since it was programmed to act in a human fashion, XA-VR vocalized to himself while he was alone. “Precipitation will be down to less than ten percent this month. The planet is revolving one millionth of a second slower than normal. The solar eclipse will occur at…”
His deep space radar picked up an abnormal disturbance, interrupting his train of thought.
“My sensors and data files are infallible. A fleet of spacecraft approaching from the far side of our solar system. I must attempt to establish communications on behalf of Koncord.” He transmitted a message on all known frequencies simultaneously.
Moments passed as the fleet grew closer.
Then a response came in a most violent way.
“An intense heat surge moving toward my orbit. Evasive maneuvers activated.” A force-shield came online, with just enough time to refract the blast like a prism would bend a beam of light.
“I held off the first attack. I must get a message down to master Lance.” A signal shot down toward the planet. No response.
“He has not activated his audio device. I must send a text message and hope he sees it in time.” The computerized sentinel transferred the warning and then switched his entire focus on those approaching at a steady pace.
A quartet of massive arsenals opened fire on the lone satellite. Its protective energy field took the brunt of the first and second rounds, but it began to weaken under the third barrage. “Despite mounting odds, I must try to retaliate.” Xavier transferred controls to the offensive systems.
The photon cannon hummed as it propelled a great destructive force through the vacuum of space, making contact with one of the ships. These would-be attackers were not expecting a counterattack; a number of their crew regretted that poor assessment as they were sucked out of a hole in the starboard hull into the cold, killing void of space.
But one assault could not halt the plague.
One laser blast pierced XA-VR’s defenses, ripping into his circuitry like a searing knife. “Systems shutting down,” it reported as machinery began to fizzle and pop. “If my end is near, I can only hope to afford master Lance more time.” The satellite prepared the sequence required to initiate self-destruction. His weapon systems went off-line in hopes to deceive the attackers.
“Farewell, Koncord. I will not forget you.”
As one of the cruisers moved closer to the satellite, its generators exploded. The cruiser was caught in a devastating blow, incapacitating that ship’s engines. The wave of evil that was about to crash down upon the unsuspecting planet below was short one of its destructive forces.