His collar was crisply folded and perfectly pressed. The four stars affixed upon the lapels of his jacket denoted his rank, but it was his steely gaze that proclaimed his power.
Workstations loaded with computers buzzed all around him, technicians working furiously at their posts, but the general didn’t even glance at them. His entire focus lay on the task at hand. Everything they’d been working toward had led to this point, and he would not allow anything to go wrong. Too much depended upon this.
“General,” requested one of the many scientists, interrupting his thoughts. “We are almost ready to power up the mechanism. Do we have permission to proceed?”
The general nodded slightly, his features not betraying his inner excitement in the slightest. The scientist scurried away.
“I have to voice my protestations again, General,” said the man beside him, an academic-looking figure in his early thirties, his hair short and dark, and his white lab coat creased from long wear. “This machine hasn’t been operated in centuries. We have no idea what it might do. The writings –”
“The writings don’t mean shit to me, Professor,” growled the general. “I want to see what this device does. This could be the greatest discovery mankind has ever known, and you’re here pissing in your britches when you should be over the moon to even be involved. You might go down in history as the one to unlock the instrument which led humanity to the next level of technology.”
“It might destroy the planet.”
The general stared at him blankly. “I have faith in our defenses, Professor. I think you should as well.”
“This machinery was shut down for a reason,” protested the professor, waving his hand in a sweep toward the enormous stone structures standing around the room, beyond the scientific equipment. “There is no clear reference as to what will happen in any of the writings. For all we know it might be a doomsday device, God knows they had the technology.”
“That is exactly why we must activate it. We need to know what it does and how to combat it. Can you imagine if there are more of these scattered around the planet? What if our country’s enemies found one and learned how to use it? How long do you think it would be until they turned it on us?”
“But General –”
“But nothing,” countered the general. “I need to ascertain if this device is a threat to the United States, and if so, we will either destroy it or relocate it to a more secure location. You have your orders, Professor. Turn the damn thing on.”
Muttering something under his breath, the professor moved compliantly to the enormous stone tablet, its inlaid inscriptions seeming to pulse with anticipation. They had determined months beforehand that this functioned as the equivalent of a control panel. One by one, he began brushing his fingers over the carvings, each glowing slightly as he did. He continued with this for several minutes, pressing different combinations until finally a low groan emitted from an area surrounded by monoliths similar to those located at Stonehenge. These stood nearly twice as large as the circle in Europe which had evoked so much conjecture over the decades.
The ground rumbled heavily and dust began to drift from the ceiling of the cavern. With a thunderous crack the monolithic circle erupted and flooded the area with light so bright all the surrounding personnel – including the forty heavily-armed marines ringing the outer wall – instinctively turned away, shielding their eyes.
And the circle began to rotate.
The light dulled enough for the workers to return their awed gazes to it, witnessing the breathtaking spectacle. The entire platform, including the monoliths, had begun to spin, slowly at first, but gradually picking up speed, starting to buzz with a high pitched whine which echoed from the walls. More than one scientist appeared to cower slightly, but all held steady. This was what they’d worked so long for.
The stone monoliths soundlessly flashed out of existence in an instant, no trace of them left, not even a grain of sand, replaced by an inky blackness which seemingly sucked the very illumination from the massive floodlights. Visibility dropped immediately, a cloak of gloom descending over everyone in a heartbeat.
“Secure this room!” ordered the general. Huge steel doors slammed into the ground from overhead crevices, blocking the ancient entrances. The external ring of marines snapped into action, stepping forward and taking up defensive positions, primed weapons aimed at the swirling darkness. The general noticed the annoying Australian soldier step in close to the professor, but for once he remained silent, all his attention seemingly centered on the swirling blackness.
An eerie silence descended upon the area, breaths held in anticipation. The professor moved swiftly back to the general’s side.
“What’s going on here, Professor?”
His question met with silence, and the general glanced away from the swirling black curtain, staring down at the smaller man. Sweat beaded upon the professor’s brow, and his hands were trembling, absolute terror etched across his features.
“Speak up, man!” barked the general.
The professor tore his gaze away from the scene before them, turning haunted eyes toward the general. “I-It can’t be,” he whispered.
“What is it?”
The professor swallowed. “It’s a doorway. A rift.”
“A doorway? A doorway to where?”
“I didn’t think it was possible,” he replied, his voice trembling so erratically it seemed he might choke on the words. “I thought I’d misinterpreted what the runes said. It can’t be true.”
“Will you tell me what the hell is going on here? Where does this doorway lead?”
“We’ve opened a temporal split, General,” answered the professor. “It’s a gateway between dimensions.”
“What are you talking about, man? I need to know exactly where this thing goes.”
“The writings spoke of the machinery we’ve just started. They told of a power so immense it would unleash absolute evil upon the world if ever it were restarted. I assumed they were being metaphorical, that it was merely a weapon. I had trouble with a section which told exactly what would happen when the machinery restarted. The wording seemed open to a great many interpretations, but now I see it was, in fact, literal.”
“What did it say?”
“It told of the machinery’s ability to unleash something so horrible nothing on this planet could stand against it.”
An ominous lamentation sounded from the rift, echoing around the room, the flood lamps flickering in unison as though a surge of power followed the noise.
The professor assumed an expression of total resignation. “This machine is designed for one purpose,” he said, his tone neutral. “It opens a doorway into a place men were never supposed to go.”
“Where?” demanded the general. “Tell me where this thing goes.”
Bestial howling roared through the cavernous room. The lights exploded, thrusting them into the bowels of darkness….
BEYOND HADES will be unleashed worldwide on kindle
Monday, 16th April, 2012.
Print version will follow very soon after .