34 - The Off Switch

Au and Archie started on opposite sides of the middle row of the buzzing machines. Crawling low, underneath the hazy patch that signaled years of sunny days flashing by, Au noticed the knob had a manual stop. She crawled out from under it, careful to avoid losing bits to the tiny temporal tempest above, and then ran over to Archie over the central dividing path. “There’s a stop knob!” Archie caught on quick. They both moved quickly through the rows of machines, hitting reverse as fast as they could. They couldn’t see much of the smudge from below the machines, but the rumblings of the ground were increasingly present, and worryingly, the sunlight seemed to be dimming a bit.

Au heard a set of small crashes, as a tiny meteor smashed into one of the machines much closer to the gate. She poked her head out to see bits and pieces flying off as it wobbled, now off balance. It went down, taking ten or fifteen machines with it. There was a haze to the air around the fallen machines, thick with slowly diluting time dilation.

Out from under the solar farming apparati, Au saw a roundish, solid shape, dark against the sun. The smudge itself, seeming now like roiling clouds of smoke slowly encroaching on their perimeter, was lit up intermittently by meteors streaking through, and invariably, muffled thumps and crashes would echo out.

Au was concerned with the falling shape beginning to blot out the sun, either it was very close to them, or very large. Neither was good. It was also hard to judge if the smudge was getting smaller as a result of their efforts, but what could they do but rush on? She ducked back under the rows of machines, turning them offt as she could, forgetting for now, about the worryingly large meteor taking liberties with the sunlight. Perhaps it would realize it was not needed if they shut off all the machines, and spend its energy elsewhere.

One could hope.

They were making progress, about one machine every fifteen seconds. It would still take them a few hours.

Neither of them knew it, but they had reached the hallway mark. They were rapidly approaching the safe number. Small meteors and minor devastation that sent up the dark cloud had stopped arriving with such fervour, only the ones already in the works were still causing a ruckus.

The city was in full panic mode now, as the promised salvation by the industrialists had yet to give evidence of materializing; the formal encroachment by the smudge had been announced by the landing of the first meteors, and a fabulous earthquake that took half of Laudishan, it’s cliff perch and many of the magnates and entourageites hunkering down in industabunkers down the second falls, crushing the main route of the C-rail. Small meteors were falling here and there, smashing bits of masonry and coming to rest amidst the smoking flora that covered so much of the grand architecture of the old city. These were harbingers of a greater worry, and although the smudge of smoke was beginning to dissipate, one would be remiss to ignore the final, gigantic meteor that was currently obscuring some of the sunlight, and aimed directly at the temporal fields, as anyone with even an amateur interest in astronomy could tell.

Austera and Archie continued shutting off the temporal solar devices, and were about three quarters of the way through, when the complex was struck by the large aforementioned meteor.

In a way it was confused, it had found an area untouched by catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of years too much of a temptation to ignore. That was before, on derivation from it’s normal path. Something was different now, had it erred? No, it felt cheated. There had been foul play afoot, it was sure in it’s great silica substrate, or at least what passed for sure in it’s pseudo intelligence. If it hadn’t already started it’s approach, well it might just have taken its talents elsewhere, frankly. Well, nothing to do now but to make a really impressive impact. If you’re going to do it, might as well do it with style.

It collided with temporal fields, where the devices indeed still hummed.

A great explosion went forth, hundreds of the little solar collectors vaporized, a blossoming bloom of time dilation billowed out from the destruction of the temporal fields. Au looked up in time to see the wall of nectarine haze jellying around her, and was caught full on in the blast.

Archie suffered a similar fate, though he didn’t even have the privilege of viewing the mind boggling onrush of time and space. He was bending over to deal with a particularly tricky machine, and it hit him bum-first.

Previous chapter Next chapter All chapters