Something recently reminded me of a short story I wrote over 20 years ago. It was handwritten on a long lost scrappy piece of paper but using the same idea I decided to rewrite it for this blog. I hope you enjoy it.
The year was 2424. All wars between countries and religions had virtually ceased; the human race had to act collectively to combat a mass, worldwide alien invasion. For centuries, there had been increased sightings of alien craft for the governments of the world to accept the threat could not be ignored. They pulled together, agreed on peaceful settlements and combined all efforts to a global defence strategy.
The alien beings were desperate to colonise our planet due to the exhaustion of their own natural resources; the already overpopulated Earth had insufficient assets to sustain multiple lifeforms. After weak attempts to negotiate settlements, the foreign lifeforms had no option but to endeavour to wipe out humanity and take over the Earth for the survival of their species.
The human race appeared to have little to fear. While the aliens had sophisticated spacecraft, the living beings were small, slow-moving lifeforms with limited intelligence; they were no match for a human being if it ever came to 1 to 1 combat and their versions of weapons were the equivalent of peashooters in comparison to the more advanced Earth defence artilleries. They did, however, have two advantages: firstly, they could breed very quickly, resulting in huge numbers already adapting to life in the Earth’s atmosphere; and secondly, they were disease-ridden, harbouring infections which had no impact on their own lifeform but were deadly to humans.
The aliens had to be controlled, ideally eliminated altogether. Humans lived in vast controlled zones, protected by giant magnetic shields which were virtually impenetrable. With ever-increasing extra-terrestrial numbers, there was a danger that those shields might not last forever. As a consequence, daily efforts were made across the globe to cull the invaders and keep the numbers to manageable proportions.
Surveillance vehicles called “Thundercats” were sent on patrol, leaving the safety of the controlled zones to seek out the intruders and kill on sight. The Thundercats were fast-moving, multi-terrain armoured tanks with their own mobile magnetic defence shields capable of withstanding a small atomic bomb. The aliens were not difficult to find, they would plod towards the tanks with a single-tracked, zombie-like dedication and no plan of how to attack. They could be killed with a single shot, and their bodies would decompose within days. The patrol missions were more like cleaning-up exercises than acts of war.
Spencer Invictus was a much-decorated and highly respected Captain in charge of a small specialist team managing the patrols. He was the youngest man ever to be assigned the position of Captain, and his operational knowledge of the Thundercat surveillance tanks was second to none. On February 1, 2424, he turned up for his usual working day at the “Station”, the simple name given to the depot which was the home to hundreds of war machines. He said goodbye to his 13-year-old brother who loved to be in his company and entered his Thundercat for a two-hour shift.
Gliding effortlessly across the barren terrain outside the human zone, he successfully sought out dozens of cumbersome alien land vehicles and even more of the sluggish creatures. He felt no remorse as he blew them all to smithereens with the minimum of effort. In his eyes, it was simply a job to be carried out. He used to say that he very much enjoyed his job; there was something therapeutic about eliminating evil and ridding the world of these dangerous creatures.
He had just started his return journey back to the Station when something odd caught his eye. The skies rapidly darkened and his dashboard control panel began to flicker. Unconcerned, he opened the communication channels back to the main Station switchboard. “Delta, Alpha, Gamma, over.” No answer. “Delta, Alpha, Gamma. Come in, over”. No answer. The override amber alert setting was activated on his dashboard, but still, the skies darkened.
Additional attempts to communicate with the Station or indeed other surveillance vehicles met with similar failure. He still did not know what was happening but was sufficiently concerned to set the override red alert setting and then accelerated the Thundercat to its maximum speed. Shortly afterwards, the cause of the darkened skies became apparent; an alien Mothership, the size of 14 football pitches, arrived directly overhead turning daylight into virtual night-time.
Spencer weaved his vehicle as fast as he could towards base when he noticed the eight super drones hatching from the Mothership. They completely surrounded the Thundercat, and in an instant, before Spencer had a chance to re-adjust his vehicle missiles to point to the air, each super drone, in turn, unleashed cutting-edge laser weaponry. According to the monitor, the attacks depleted the shield’s defences by 12½% each time. Within 30 seconds, all the drones had unleashed their maximum destruction. The Thundercat’s first eight lives had been cruelly taken, it was left to the Mothership to deliver the final ninth blow to a terminally weakened vehicle. It seemed to delay the inevitable, almost savouring the moment.
Inside the ‘Cat’, there were no remaining weapons, no movement capabilities, no power apart from an emergency override to feed the computer, and no hope. As the cockpit temperature rose to critical proportions and a bright white light covered the whole area, Spencer screamed his final act of defiance, “Come on then, just do it”.
In the last moments of life, the first part of the brain to die controls all the day-to-day decision-making processes and body movements. After this, the middle part of the brain which stores all memories takes control; this is why people say your life flashes before you. In his last fleeting moments of life, Spencer thought , in reverse order, about when he set out on patrol, how he left his young brother playing in the Station, the day he started work and went out on his first patrol, a brief fight he had whilst at school and his first day at nursery. As his eyelids were about to shut for the very last time, he glanced at his monitor which fizzed, crackled, went black and then, for a split second, displayed two words…
Tom put the PlayStation controller down on the coffee table and searched for the disc labelled, “Tomb Raider”.
Meanwhile, in another corner of the interconnected web-enabled virtual world, a Japanese teenager from Downtown Shibuya, Tokyo, who controlled a Mothership, took the option to save his game, another level successfully navigated.
Did you spot the subliminal clues?
- Spencer Invictus = “Space Invaders.”
- Delta, Alpha, Gamma, over = “Game over.”
- Spencer’s brother played in the Station = “PlayStation.”