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Last Stand

The machine clicked and whirred as it activated. A flickering hologram appeared above the machine, casting an eerie white glow. The captain looked at the hologram and input some commands into the computer. The hologram spun around and tilted just slightly, so that the top of the image could be seen. The hologram had a title floating above it, labeled “Map of the Milky Way”. The captain reached out and touched one of the stars. The image magnified the view of the star and another title popped up, “Polaris”. The captain observed the image before he turned off the console.
The captain walked over to his seat in front of the ship’s main control board. The buttons on it were flashing in yellows and reds and greens to show priority. Only one button was flashing red, but the captain didn’t bother pressing it to find and address the problem. He already knew what the button was for. It was to show him the mission objectives, which he had memorized and could recite word for word by heart.
His mission was to take his ship and ram it into a planet. Yes, that was his mission, given to him by the Earth Consortium, the worldwide government that controlled Earth and all of Home System. When humans set out to explore the worlds outside of their own, they found no life supporting planets anywhere in the galaxy. Humans were happy that they were unique, yet they had a sense of loneliness in their own minds. So humans, in their grand folly, attempted the terraforming of worlds. They succeeded, but only briefly, for it was found that due to distances from a star terraforming was nigh impossible. So the goal was to alter a planet’s orbit so that humanity could achieve what it was striving for.
The captain watched the viewing screen as the ship sped towards its final destination. The stars rushed past like cars on a freeway, and the captain deactivated the viewing screen as well. He left the ship on autopilot and retired to his quarters. The ship’s screen remained blank, then it turned on. Sirens cried out, and the captain rushed out onto the cramped bridge. The screen flashed a deadly ultimatum: “Ship destruction in 30 seconds. Ship destruction in 29 seconds…”
The captain rushed up to the control panel, and began inputting commands in desperation. The screen froze, and the captain sighed in relief. The ship’s screen flashed one last time: “Ship destruction now. Raising engines to critical levels.” The captain screamed as his ship was engulfed in a fiery ball. For about half a second, the captain and his doomed ship were the brightest object in space. Then the oppressive blackness prevailed again.

Earth, 3000 A.D. It was a dark time, it was a terrible time. Earth was running low on any material. Even dirt was critically low. The seas had dried a long time ago, all the water sent off to humanity’s failed dreams of space colonization. The skies no longer showed blue, but a greenish brown. Animal life had long since ended, and the only plants left alive were those in the giant dome cities to make oxygen. People had even stopped calling Earth by its proper name, and called it New Mars. The ice caps had melted, and the planet was a desert.
The Earth Consortium had stopped all attempts at expanding man’s reach in the cosmos, after all ships sent to alter planet-orbit were destroyed by some unknown entity. Some had taken this as a sign that there was other life in the universe. Others believed it was the rebellious Theocrats, a group bent on keeping Earth secluded from the rest of space, and bent on destroying all technology. People were dying faster than they were being born. Some cities had actually resorted to cloning to keep the population from going extinct. Humans had no hope left. Every day was a struggle for survival, and many lost in this endeavor.
The overall population of humans on Earth had dropped to 25,000, the rest dead or fled on space ships, still holding on to that futile dream, We are not alone. Scientists struggled day and night to find a way to save Earth, but no salvation was seen. Every time they came close the Theocrats destroyed all the technology that had been developed, leaving the scientists at square one time and time again. This time though, the scientists were close, and they would let nothing stop them.
Marx was a lean, well built man. His skin was black as the dust that covered Earth, and his eyes were dark and serious. He fit into his regulation uniform with the utmost ease, and he shot more accurately than anyone else in his unit. He held his gun at the ready, watching the horizon for any disturbance. He knew that he was essential to humanity’s survival now, and the scientists were almost done with their arcane experiments. Now just to keep the Theocrat’s “zealots” away until the ship was launched.
A scientist rushed out of the compound, his face covered in a hood and mask like Marx’s, with a slit for the eyes covered with plastic, gray, and made from some synthetic substance. The scientist looked at the horizon and turned back to Marx.
“I trust everything is well, Sergeant Marx?” The scientist inquired, his voice sure and steady. “No zealots have shown their ugly mugs yet, have they?”
“No Dr. Roberts, none of those fools have shown up yet.” Marx replied, his eyes never leaving the horizon. “When is the ship slated for launch?”
“Within 30 minutes.” Dr. Roberts clapped his hands together. “Just think, in one week we will have saved humanity and all its workings! Doesn’t that just excite you?”
“I suppose so, Dr. Roberts. Just how does it work?”
“Oh, well it’s very simple really,” Dr. Roberts began to explain. “What my colleagues and I have done is… Wait, Sergeant Marx, what is that on the horizon?”
Marx looked out to the horizon and swore. The zealots had shown up all right, but their numbers were larger than expected. Command had only expected one aero-fighter and 50 foot soldiers on their attack speeders, vehicles much like motorcycles. Marx saw at least three aero-fighters, and about 300 attack speeders. Marx reached for his comm-pack.
“All units, we have visual on the zealots, activate the defense turrets, over.”
“Sir, aren’t those turrets for a last resort? Over.” Another voice crackled over the radio channel.
“Stop asking and start firing, soldier, Marx out.” Marx deactivated the comm-pack and reached for his blazer. By the time the first of Marx’s unit had reached the outside of the compound, the first wave of zealots had entered the firing range for the turrets. The turrets began firing their heavy shells like there was no tomorrow, because if they failed, there would be no tomorrow. Many of the attack speeders were agile enough to dodge the main missiles, but they hadn’t counted on the explosion range. Speeders were sent flying, and their crews were crushed in the landing.
The speeders that weren’t blown to smithereens began firing as they drew closer to the compound. Marx had been firing with his usual deadly accuracy, but even then, he had gone through 40 packs of one hundred charges each. The zealots came like a flash flood in a desert. Dr. Roberts was cowering behind a rock, and his cries could be heard over the deafening roar of lasers firing back and forth.
“What are you doing? Get back to the compound!” Marx screamed at the scientist, who was at wit’s end.
“Staying alive, that’s what I’m doing!” Dr. Roberts bellowed back. He was about to continue his rant when he received a message from the compound via his wrist console. He looked at it and cheered, happily declaring “The ship is ready to launch now! The ship is ready to launch now!”
Marx opened a radio link to all his soldiers. “All units, the ship is ready to launch! Retreat and enter the ship, keep firing as you go along!” He shot another zealot before fleeing to the compound with Dr. Roberts.

The zealots had overrun the compound and were making their way to the main hangar. They would destroy the ship and all those on it. There was no toleration of failure to comply with the Great One’s orders. The Earth Defense Units fired their blazers so fast, there were no individual lasers, but just one giant laser that cut down the zealots like wheat before the scythe. The zealots kept running forward though, as if numbers of those dead and wounded meant nothing to them.
Dr. Roberts and Sergeant Marx jumped onto the ship right as the door was closing. The bulky, plane-shaped space freighter began to lift off, and the hangar bay doors opened. The ship rose into the sky of the blasted planet, and made the jump to light-speed. The zealots paid no attention to this, and they continued to slaughter the EDUs before them, even though the mission had failed. The zealots always had a backup plan in case of mission failure: Leave No Man Standing.
The aero-fighters tried to pursue the spacecraft, but they had to return to the ground because of a lack of fuel. In fact, the aero-fighters weren’t built for landing, they were built to hover while hooked up to a fuel line. So the zealots used a technique from one thousand years earlier. They rammed their dying ships into the compound, trying to take all of the “heretics” with them.
The remaining scientists fled before the onslaught of the zealots, but a few brave ones were inputting commands into a large computer. These scientists were killed almost immediately. The zealots celebrated in their victory, dancing among the dead bodies of their enemies and allies. They were so busy that they didn’t notice the screen of the large computer where the last scientists stood minutes before. “Main Reactor Rising to Critical Levels, Destruction Eminent. Have A Nice Day.” Thirty seconds later, a new crater adorned the surface of the Earth.

“Status report, soldier.” Marx said to one of the soldiers on the ship, his vest torn and his visor cracked.
“Sir, 40 dead, 200 wounded, and 3 captive.” The soldier responded, his voice wheezing out the information. “The captives are not our own soldiers, sir, they’re zealots.”
Marx thought about this. The Earth Defense Units had never managed to capture a live zealot before. An interrogation would be in order to discover the rest of the zealot’s maniacal plans to kill humanity. He told the soldier to go to med bay, and he went off to find the location of the captives. Marx walked to the bridge and told the pilot to go and get some rest after all the excitement the crew had gone through today. The pilot left with a broad grin on his face, muttering something about breaking into the vintage in the ship’s cargo bay, but Marx ignored it. He went up to the main console and scanned the ship for bioforms that were not recognized as EDU personnel.
The screen flashed a couple of times, and a map of the ship opened up. The three bioforms that appeared in red, unlike all the others in green, were in the dormitory area. Marx, satisfied, left the ship on autopilot to the coordinates of the planet Apollo, in orbit around the center star in the constellation Orion’s Belt.
Two guards were outside of the dormitory where the zealots were being kept. The guards raised their weapons until they recognized their superior, at which point they lowered their weapons and unlocked the door. Marx walked in to see the zealots asleep. It was a disgusting sight.
The zealots were all shaved bald, and on their scalp was some kind of symbol burned. One had a Cross burned into his scalp, another had the Star of David on his, and the last had the Moon and Star of Islam emblazoned on his head. Their skin was covered with dirt and grime, and their teeth were decaying inside their mouths. Marx kicked the one with the Star of David in the ribs, waking him up.
The zealot must have been knocked out for quite a while, because he was still disoriented for several minutes. When the zealot came to, he saw the well-armed Marx standing in front of him, and fell to they floor, cowering and praying. What a disgusting creature, for he can hardly be counted as human, Marx thought. The other zealots were awoken by the whimpers of the first one, and they followed the first zealot’s example as well.
“Do, you, speak, the, common, tongue?” Marx asked, adding gestures in order to help the zealots. The first one to pray was the first one up.
“Of course we do! Do you take us for morons, beasts, or vile, base creatures?” the zealot roared, his voice deep and resonating.
“Yes.” Marx murmured under his breath.
“We all are as intelligent, if not even more intelligent than you heretics!” The zealot roared again, his colleagues still cowering on the floor. “Because we do not believe in your ‘Grand Science’, we are killed like cattle!”
“What belief, the belief that humanity must die?” Marx retorted.
“Humanity will die because it has sinned!!” The zealot roared. Marx was becoming annoyed, and in his temper, he shot the zealot with the cross on his head. The zealot with the moon and star got up and tried to run, but he was shot down by the guards at the door.
“I am in control here, zealot!” Marx sputtered in his rage. “ You will tell me what I want to know, lest you end up like your comrades!”
Marx handcuffed the zealot, and was about to lead him to the medbay for interrogation when an alarm rang out through the ship. “Ship destruction in 3 minutes! Ship destruction in 2 minutes 55 seconds…”
Marx ran to the bridge, dragging the protesting zealot behind him. The zealot laughed and began to sing praises of his brothers. Marx decked the zealot and threw him to the floor.
“You, zealot, tell me how to stop the destruction!” Marx cried.
“I will not tell you!” The zealot laughed in giddy desperation.
“Then you do it, before we all die!” Marx screamed.
At the mention of death, the zealot automatically began to panic.
“I will not die! Release me from these handcuffs and I will stop the ship’s demise! Just don’t let me die!” the zealot cried in desperation. Marx was moved by the sight of the zealot crying for mercy, and decided that he had better trust the zealot. He had to anyway, because the zealot was the only hope if the crew was to survive, let alone complete the mission. Marx released the zealot, and the zealot ran up to the console and began typing like crazy. The screen stopped.
“Are we safe?” Marx asked. “I heard stories of captains that stopped the screens, but then the ship was immediately destroyed…”
“That is because the codes were their own, and not the codes used by my brothers.” The zealot replied.
“Well, many thanks. You, zealot, are not so bad.” Marx laughed, his relief at not being part of a giant explosion showing.
“Please, call me David.” The zealot replied.

So the journey continued for another month or so, with attacks from the zealots hampering the progress of the ship carrying the salvation of humanity. The last attempt that had been executed by the zealots was to send out a fleet of space ships to pursue the scientists, soldiers, and zealot.
Dr. Roberts finally got to explain how the experiment would work. The scientists had taken the simplest lifeform left alive, and had given it a rapid growth hormone. The scientists had created a way to reproduce fifty million years of evolution in just a week. So they needed to find a planet habitable by humans, the rebirth of an old idea, the habitable zone. The reason why they didn’t bring completely evolved creatures is because they didn’t exist anymore, or were needed to make oxygen for the giant dome cities on Earth.
David explained the long and forgotten history of the conflict between the Theocrats and the rest of the world. In the year 2500 A.D., the world had been united under the Earth Consortium. The Earth Consortium believed that religion was an “inefficient, obsolete, outdated thing” and outlawed all religion. The war that occurred right after developed two major factions, the Theocrats, those that believed in some higher power, and the Scientists, those who believed that humanity became the way it was because “it got lucky in evolution”. So the zealots had been chased beneath the planetary surface and had crafted a civilization below the sands.
The zealots remained peaceful for about 200 years, until the current Great One had come to power. He was not born a Theocrat, and he had taken new weapons and technology with him. He told the Theocrats that the surface belonged to them, and the heretics were destroying the beloved Earth. An escaped scientist, he rose in power until he came to rule. He had his body outfitted with mechanical enhancements to expand his lifespan, and sent soldiers to the surface to eradicate those who were corrupt.
This exchange of ideas among the ship’s passengers had made everyone feel as though they understood more of the world. As it is said, “There is more than one way to view a painting.” The crew’s demeanor had basically improved, and life seemed to be just fine.
Marx walked up behind the pilot. “So, how long until we reach planet Eden?”
“About 3 hours sir.” The pilot responded, smiling.
Until David had told the crew all about the stories of the religions and the beliefs, the planet was simply known as planet E-X1. Now they called it Eden, as it would be a rich, green planet with blue seas, teeming with life. The blue seas were already there, as the Earth Consortium had sent the last of Earth’s water here, for all the water on Earth now was harvested from the Martian icecaps.
Dr. Roberts walked onto the bridge. “Marx, I cannot express the importance of our landing site. We must expose the microbes to water so they can survive and adapt.” he explained.
“Well, doctor, there was always one other question I wanted to ask you. This gene that makes evolution happen so quickly, will it die out?” Marx inquired.
“It expires after three hundred million generations, but at the rate the generations occur, about one month.”
“Good,” Marx laughed. “I’d hate to wake up and an apple I ate yesterday without getting sick made me die today.”
“Wouldn’t we all,” David said as he had walked onto the bridge. He was dressed in Earth Defense regulation uniform, a jumpsuit with a vest and pads on the shins and forearm. His head was no longer bald, and was covered by a swath of blonde hair. He had gained weight on the ship’s diet, and the exercise program recommended by the ship’s physician had done nothing but wonders.
So the pilot, Marx, Roberts, and David were all talking and laughing like the good friends they had become when a message came over the ship’s speakers.
“All those aboard the EDUS Guardian have a choice,” an old, mechanical voice rattled out through the ship. “You may turn back to Earth, destroy your experiment, and say the mission was a failure. Or you can fight against our fleet of ships, 30 strong, and perish. You have half an hour to make your decision.”
David had a look of fear on his face. “That was the Great One’s voice!” He stammered. “We are doomed!”
Marx sat and thought for a moment, he got up and looked at the planet surface below the ship. The ocean stretched out between two orange continents, and there were some islands spread through the water, like freckles.
“Dr. Roberts, have you ever made a missile before?” Marx asked.
“No, why?” Roberts replied, his voice shaking.
“Because your experiment is going to get down there no matter what.”

The Great One sat in his commander’s chair on his ship. The chair was ornate, made from some of the last wood on Earth. His metallic fingers drummed on the armrest, and his robotic eye, glowing a mean red, looked out. His other eye, the human one, was blue and looked about the bridge, striking fear into anyone fool enough to look at the Great One.
“How long until they must make their decision?” The Great One demanded, his voice causing the computer screens in the room to flicker.
“About five minutes, o Great One.”
“Excellent,” the Great One mused. “Prepare the blazers, men. There will be some fireworks tonight.”

“Will this work?” Dr. Roberts asked.
“It had better,” Marx replied. “Or every human left is as good as dead.”
David, Marx, and Dr. Roberts had been working on the missile containing the microbes to be shot into the sea for twenty-five minutes. The only thing they needed to do now is shoot the darn thing.
“Are you ready to fire?” David radioed up to the weapons officer.
“Ready and waiting.” The weapons officer replied.
“Well boys,” Marx said, loading the missile into the launch bay. “There’s gonna be some fireworks tonight.”

The ship floated in orbit around the planet. A blazing streak of light left the ship and impacted the planetary surface below, landing in the ocean. The other ships fired upon the first one, lasers flashing out from every direction. The first ship was blown to pieces, and parts went flying everywhere. The fleet turned around and began the trek home.

The planet surface was as calm as could be. A light breeze made the grasses brush against one another. A creature crawled out of the water, the first of its kind, and it passed a shard of metal. The creature had webbed feet, short legs, and two black eyes. It had brown, scaly skin, and a tail trailing behind it. The creature stuck out its tongue to see if the metal was any good to eat. The metal was hot from being in the sun, and the creature ran off with a burned tongue. Emblazoned on the metal shard in faded black letters were: EDUS GUARDIAN.

Join the Discussion

This article has 10 comments. Post your own now!

Kathy123 said...
Dec. 5, 2008 at 12:49 pm
I think we have a future famous author here! Awesome writing!!
maddy said...
Nov. 26, 2008 at 9:38 pm
Great article. captured my imagination
Linda S aka Hazeleyes said...
Nov. 26, 2008 at 4:51 am
Claudette A. said...
Nov. 25, 2008 at 5:43 pm
Wow! I am very impressed with your imagination.
sam said...
Nov. 25, 2008 at 2:04 am
I found your imagination far beyond what I would have expected from one your age. This type of writing normally would not keep my interest, but I found I just had to read on. Keep up the good work.
auntd said...
Nov. 25, 2008 at 12:42 am
Rock on Matt!!
Martybear said...
Nov. 23, 2008 at 9:58 pm
Great piece of work!!! Keep at it I look forward to reading more of your stories in the future
manymiles said...
Nov. 21, 2008 at 11:08 pm
Your imagination is amazing and will take you far!!
Keep writing!!!
proudgrannie said...
Nov. 21, 2008 at 3:01 pm
Matt has a phenomenal and creative writing ability. He is a unique gift of description in his writing. When this article is published it will the first of many for this young author.
coastie said...
Nov. 20, 2008 at 12:35 am
Such a wonderful imagination!
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