Harbinger

planets sapce 1382364_69137619

Harbinger

Stephen del Mar

 © 2014 All Rights Reserved

 

 “Ouch.”

Sanders grabbed a handful of hair and pulled his wife’s mouth from his nipple ring. He looked at the time display then back at her. “It’s four in the morning. What the hell are you doing? I was asleep.”

The wall monitor didn’t offer a lot of light in the dark room but he could see her smile and lick her lips. “I have an early expedition launch and I want to play before I’m on deck. I have a marine station to run. I don’t get to play secret order spy down in the basement like you do.”

He gave her a mock frown. “I don’t play at anything.” He pulled her back and kissed her open mouth. She slid her body over his and straddled him. He welcomed the warm naked flesh against his in the cold room.

She began to move her hips. Yes, this was better than sleep.

The door-alarm buzzed. “Damn.”

She stopped and called out. “Who is it?”

A lifeless computer voice announced, “Communications Adept Zander Skies.”

Sanders called out. “Lights. Low.”

Warm dim light filled the room. He looked up at his wife. Her pale round face framed by long dark hair. He reached up and cupped her breast. He so wanted to spend time with them. She smiled, reading his thoughts, then leaned down and whispered in his ear, “He’s only an Adept and you are still inside of me.”

He sighed into the soft hair covering his face. All he wanted to do was thrust. Thrust with wild animal abandon.

“Duty.” He whispered it to her and himself.

She rolled off of him, got out of bed, and headed for the bathroom. Her silence spoke to him. He owed her. Husbands had duty too.

****

Sanders pulled his robe tighter around himself as he walked through their quarters. He paused at the door and punched the entry key. The door swished open. Adept Zander Skies stood fidgeting in the corridor. He had bloodshot eyes and his black uniform was crumpled and smelled like he’d been in it for days. Red stubble roughened his face. How could Lydecker, is second in command, let the boy get in such a state?

“You look like hell, man, what is it?”

Skies showed him a data pad.

“Master Sanders, I’m sorry to wake you, but we’ve had a wave alert. I’ve worked through to a third watch.”

Providence save me from the young, he thought. And why the hell was anyone working a triple watch? The station was hip deep in Adepts.

“Son. Delta is ninety five percent ocean. It’s winter here in the northern hemisphere. If there weren’t storms, that’d be cause for alarm.”

He was ready to order the young man to the showers and then his rack when he pushed the data-pad at him. “But Sir! Look. We’ve had a Category Twelve event. We lost a deep sea station.”

Sanders looked at the man for a moment; his brain still fogged by sleep and interrupted passion. “Twelve? There is no Category Twelve.” He did a mental calculation. “That’d be a wave at least a kilometer high. We’ve been on this planet for three hundred years; there’s never been a rogue wave that big.” Something about a geology report tapped at the back of his mind, but he pushed it away. “What do you mean, lost a station—which one?”

The young man swallowed. “Deep Blue Five.”

“But that’s a manned station. You mean to tell me we’ve lost comm with a manned station?”

“Yes Sir.”

“And no one called me?”

“Brother John didn’t want to disturb you. He said it was a government station. It’s their problem. The Order watches, he said. I came on my own.” He snapped to a rather exhausted attention. “I take full responsibility for breaching protocol.”

Sanders took a breath, then took another one. Someday he will find the fool that assigned Brother John Lydecker to this station and removed that person’s favorite gonad.

“Please inform Brother John that I’ll be on deck in fifteen minutes and I expect a full report.”

“Sir.”

Sanders turned to hit the door key. “And thank you for telling me Zander. Oh and swing by your rack to freshen up on the way back to Ops.”

The young man flushed red as the door swished closed.

Sanders turned and headed for the bathroom. “Maria your research expedition may be delayed.”

****

Sanders made his way to the lift closest to his quarters. The corridors were empty and the lights low. The base had all the appearances of a normal third watch, the proverbial calm before the storm? The lift door slid aside. He stepped in and hit the icon for the command deck. The lift sped down into the depths of the island. The empty lava chambers of the extinct volcano had been excellent for creating the secret base. He hoped the hardened lave was strong enough to withstand whatever this crazy ocean planet could throw at them. After fifteen or so generations, this world could still surprise them. It could still kill them.

The status lights ringing the upper edge of the lift compartment changed from a friendly green to blue. He hit the comm-unit on his left arm. “What happened?”

Skies’ voice responded, “Master, DB-7 has gone dark…” He paused.

Sanders tried to push the annoyance out of his voice. Lydecker should be reporting, not some Adept. One couldn’t blame the young for inexperience. “Is there something else?”

“Sorry Sir, I’ve been monitoring the civilian security channels.”

Sanders closed his eyes and took a breath, a deep breath. “And?”

“Well, it seems the Fishery in the northwest sector has gone dark too.”

The lift slowed to a halt. He opened his eyes. “What do you mean the Fishery’s gone dark? The entire Fishery? That’s five processing centers and about three hundred vessels.”

“Hum, yes Sir.”

The doors slid open. He jogged down the corridor toward the Operations Center. “How long?”

“Excuse me, Sir?”

“How long has the Fishery been dark?”

“I’m not sure. Seems no one noticed until people on the mainland started calling the Commission about data streams being down. There’s not a lot of official traffic at night but the families communicate of course.”

Sanders stopped at the door to Ops. He remembered what it was like when Maria served in the field. For months, their only contact was through a vid-feed. What would it have been like to suddenly lose that feed mid-conversation? The Ops doors swished open and he stepped in.

As usual the room was dark, the main illumination coming from the large operations monitor on the far wall and the smaller monitors at the multitude of workstations. The status lights glowed blue indicating a warning condition. All over the base, alarms would be waking his personnel and he had no idea what to tell them when they reported in. He didn’t like that.

Brother John Lydecker, stood in front of the large monitor going over a report on a data-pad with a junior member. Sanders didn’t like what he saw on the monitor. Three large disaster icons flashed red and they formed a straight line pointing at this base.

Skies left the comm-station and came toward him. His hair was wet and he had on a fresh uniform. He said, “Sorry Sir, but I haven’t found anything from the Commission. They seem to think it’s a data-link issue. They don’t know about the Deep Blue stations yet. We seem to be the only ones correlating the data at the moment.”

Sanders nodded. “Can you access the Commission’s data archive?”

“I should be able to, why?”

“Parse the vid streams. Check the last minute on the feeds before they went dark. There are a lot of cameras out there, something had to get recorded. Pull in all the help you need. All three watches are coming on deck, we need to keep folks busy.”

“Yes Sir.”

An alarm chimed through the center as he headed for Brother John. He saw a new icon flash. “Report.”

Brother John barely acknowledged him. “It has to be a malfunction.”

Sanders snapped at an Adapt passing by, “Coffee. Now.”

The girl jumped and gulped, “Yes Master.” And ran away.

He turned back to his second in command. “Brother Lydecker, will you please give me a status update? I’d like to know what the hell is going on.”

He turned and looked into Sander’s eyes. Sanders saw terror there. He didn’t particularly like Brother John, but he knew he wasn’t a man prone to terror. “What is it?”

He pointed up at the wall screen. “The seabed sensors there report brief atmospheric contact.”

Sanders stared at the little square of ocean on the grid. His mind didn’t want to accept what the numbers displaying next to the flashing icon indicated. He muttered, “But the seafloor is at least two kilometers deep there.”

Brother John shook his head. “A wave with a two kilometer trough is heading our way.”

Skies came back over to him. “Sir, I’ve isolated some final frames from the Fishery stations. These were all in the buffers. I… I don’t think the remote viewers saw these, at least I hope not.”

Sanders imagined what they’d show. “Put them on the wall.”

Dozens of photo tiles replaced the map on the wall. They were all unique. A grabbed frame of people smiling and chatting with a loved one or various shots of internal and external security cams. Then the frames advanced and slowly, from left to right, as time progressed, they all showed the same thing. Destruction and death brought on by the crushing power of tons of water.

Sanders hit his comm-unit. Maria’s voice came out of the speaker, “Art what’s going on? There seems to be some kind of major communications disruption in the sector.”

“You need to shut it down.”

She paused, then asked, “Shut down what?”

“The entire marine station. Watertight protocol. Prepare for massive flooding.”

“What are you talking about?”

He took a breath. He looked at Brother John. “How long?”

“Maybe an hour. We’ve had trouble calculating the speed. Still not sure it’s the same wave event.”

Maria asked, “What is going on?”

“We have a possible two kilometer, or more, wave heading our way. You have an hour, max.”

“Two… two kilometers… is that even possible? How can that happen?”

He shook his head. He understood the shock, the need to make sense of the nonsensical but they didn’t have time. “Dear, I hope we live to do the research. Move. Assume everything not behind the high pressure doors will be damaged or destroyed. Have someone manually check the pumping stations in your area; they could be the only things saving our lives. Now move.”

“Marine station out,” she said. The comm-line went dead.

He turned to one of his juniors. “Form a detail to confirm our back-up generators are on standby, check them and recheck them. And then the pumping stations. Assume you will drown in about twenty minutes if everything isn’t operational.”

The young woman blanched then said, “Yes Master.”

Sanders walked over to the comm-station. He placed his hand on Skies’ shoulder. “I know everything is archived back at the Mother House, but keep the data stream going as long as we have a connection. Let them know what’s going on out here.”

He acknowledged with a nod.

Sanders walked back to Brother John. “What is the trajectory? Will this hit any of the major population centers?”

Brother John tapped on his pad. A global map appeared on the wall monitor with flashing indicators. “I doubt it will cross into the southern hemisphere, so the mainland is safe, thankfully. A wave this large would wipe out our civilization here on Delta. The big danger up here in the north is the Atlantis settlement, but they’re pretty deep.”

“John, we had sensors two klicks deep go dry. Send them our data and an Ultra Violet alert. Who knows if they’re monitoring this time of the morning.”

He turned back to Skies at communications. “So has the government clued in yet?”

“There’s some chatter. They’re repositioning some satellites to see what’s going on. But what can they do Sir?”

Sanders muttered, “Pick up the dead bodies before the razor eels shred them.”

He looked around the Ops Center. Everyone was doing what they could. He couldn’t will thousands of tons of sea water to go away. All they could do was batten down the hatches and hope the island held. He hated being out of control almost as much as he hated waiting. He announced to the room, “I’ll be in my office. Keep me posted.

****

Sanders leaned back in his office chair and watched destruction speed across his section of the planet’s northern hemisphere. Skies had combined an infrared vid-feed from a satellite and the Doppler radar from the top of the mountain above them to produce an impressive three-dimensional representation of three killer waves sweeping toward them. He tried to remember his training. He was a High Master of the Obsidian Order after all, but meditation seemed so futile right now. Actually everything seemed futile at the moment.

A door chime drifted through his office indicating someone wanted to enter his office through the back door and avoid Ops. The computer announced, “Doctor Sanders is in the corridor.”

“Open.”

Maria walked into the office. Their eyes met, then she looked away to the wall monitor. He studied her face. She was the oceanographer, one of the best on the planet actually. If anyone could look at this feed and understand it, it’d be her. Disbelief and wonder warred on her face for a moment. But as she turned to him fear replaced both.

“How many?”

He knew she meant the dead.

“We’re assuming thousands at this point.”

She looked back at the screen. “This is really happening isn’t it?”

He nodded. There was nothing to say to that.

She whispered, “Atlantis?”

He stood up and walked over to the monitor. A small dot blinked on the far right side. “I don’t know. They have a three hour lead time. They might be deep enough. They did give an evacuation order but where can they go in time to avoid this? Like us, I think the only option is to hunker down.”

“Will we make it?”

Honor, honesty and all those other high sounding principles of the Order dictated that he simply say he didn’t know. But he was a male primate and this was his mate standing next to him. Deep instincts honed over countless generations screamed at him to protect his woman. He was the alpha here. He had to protect his tribe. The more evolved part of his mind told him to get over it. She could take care of herself and there wasn’t anything he could do about it anyway. He smiled to himself. He did tend to over think things. He reached out and took her hand. He could do that. She really didn’t expect an answer.

The chime indicated someone wanted to enter from Ops. “Adept Skies for you Sir.”

He sighed. The wave was ten minutes away. What was the point? “Intercom.” A beep sounded. “Skies what now?” He decided he was entitled to let a bit of exasperation into his voice. Maria smiled at him.

“Master I have something to show you. It’s highly urgent.”

He looked at his wife. Her smile widened as she mouthed to him, “Highly urgent.”

He sat down in his chair. She moved behind him and rubbed his shoulders. “Enter,” he said.

Skies rushed into the room. He stopped. “Oh Doctor, I didn’t know you were here.”

Sanders snapped at him, “What is it boy? We could all be dead in a few moments.”

Skies stepped to the desk and started entering a stream of key strokes into the interface. “I was parsing the last of the data we’re sending to the Mother House and I got a pip. I think I confirmed it.”

Sanders entertained the idea of banging his head against the desk. This kid was too gun-ho. He didn’t know when to let it rest. “Son, I think we really have all the data on the waves we need for the next few minutes. No matter what you found, there really isn’t anything we can do.”

Skies looked blank for a moment then understanding spread across his face. “Oh no, this is mission data. Telemetry from the deep orbital satellites.”

Sanders narrowed his eyes. “You’re still analyzing the telemetry?”

Skies tilted his head like he didn’t understand the question. “Sir mission protocol. All data must be passed through initial algorithms before the raw data is shunted to the Mother House for further analysis.”

Maria said, “Fascinating.”

Skies’ ears flushed nearly as red as his close cropped hair. He quickly glanced at the Doctor. He didn’t seem to know how to take her comment. He swallowed and then wet his lips. He tapped a key on the desk’s interface and the map on the wall was replaced with a star field.

Sanders swiveled around in his chair. Skies gave another tap and a red circle formed around one of the white dots. The image started moving through time delay. Most of the stars didn’t move, but a few did. The one with the red dot continued across the screen. Sanders shook his head. He’d seen this a hundred times, some enthusiastic Adept discovering a new comet out in the Oort cloud of this system. Well the kid had worked a triple watch.

Sanders cleared his throat. He wanted to be gentle. Then the point of light with the red circle slowed down. It appeared to stop and then changed course. He looked at Skies.

Skies looked down at his data pad. “The original flight path had an eighty-seven percent probability of originating in the Sol System. New course puts it to match the orbit of Delta and Epsilon in thirty-eight days.”

Purple warning lights started flashing. The computer announced, “First wave impact imminent.”

Sanders didn’t care. The wave had just become as insignificant as a ripple in a pond. He turned back to the monitor. He yelled over the alarms, “Good God man, tell me you flashed this to the Mother House. Tell me you warned them that the Terran threat has arrived?”

And then everything went dark.

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Stephen del Mar

Stephen del Mar lives in the Tampa Bay area and writes in the Southern Literary tradition. His stories are character driven with rich settings. They often have a touch of the paranormal, supernatural, or magical realism. Although he writes about serious subjects, they are sweetened with humor and wit. He says, "It's a southern thing."