Three Years Prior to The Battle for Allegra,
San Sebastian Copper Mine, Raudona Akiratis
“What are we looking at, Greer?” Francis Reedsburg asks one of his workmen who is currently chipping away at an odd protrusion in the stone face.
Joseph Greer looks up and shrugs, “Looks like some sort of… tower. I don’t know, boss, it’s weird.”
Chuckling, Reedsburg shakes his head, “It doesn’t look like much of a tower, old man.”
The elderly man shrugs once more and he resumes his chipping away at the surface.
Turning away from Greer, Reedsburg looks at the rest of his mining crew and he shrugs for them. They had been pulling strange things out of this mine for some time now, so it was surprising that anyone paid any attention to new finds. A few of them had taken up what they called archeology in their spare time and they collected the odds and ends that they found around the mine and in the mine dumps, but Reedsburg did everything in his power to discourage that now. For some reason everyone who started collecting the items began coming up with theories, each theory sounding crazier than the last.
But that wasn’t the issue. Theories didn’t hurt anyone.
What hurt was the fact that many of the so-called archeologists began quitting in droves, citing their theories as their reasons for leaving.
“Boss,” one of the workmen who is still standing at the crater left by the latest blasting calls out worriedly.
“Get back to work, everyone,” Reedsburg shouts out to those who are still milling about aimlessly, “This copper isn’t going to mine itself! We got quotas; I don’t want to remind you what the Coalition does when we miss quotas!”
“Boss!” the workman calls out once more.
Returning to the edge of the blast, Reedsburg snaps at the workman, “What is it?”
“It’s—it’s glowing!” the man stammers as he points into the hole.
“What do you mean it’s glowing?” Reedsburg asks, feeling like he had heard every excuse in the book from people who didn’t want to do the job that they had agreed to take.
Staring into the hole, Reedsburg stops and he realizes that his jaw had dropped slightly. Snapping his mouth closed once more, he scows at the man who had summoned him and demands, “So what? It’s probably just… it’s probably just got some trace levels of radiation or something. We’ll deal with it. Now get back to work, Willies.”
“Yes, sir,” the man nods before he bows out and starts back toward his dump truck.
Now alone at the edge, Reedsburg takes the time to take a good look at the obstruction. As far as he could tell, the object did look rather strange, which unfortunately gave credit to all of the lousy amateur archaeologists who kept abandoning everyone and forcing everyone to work longer hours.
What’s worse, the object’s deep, almost black color perfectly matched that of the various chunks and fragments that had been dug up repeatedly since the San Sebastian mine had been established. Those pieces just grew more and more common the deeper the mine got.
And now this, Reedsburg thinks with a huff. It was days like this that made him want to join all the others who were quitting as they strung together theories.
Shaking his head, Reedsburg allows his mind to wander toward some of the theories that the others had been creating. Some of their theories did seem to hold weight, but others seemed a little out there. The best theories always came from those who did the most research and the most work, some of the people had gone as far as to build labs in their homes to identify the compounds that the strange greenish obsidian-like fragments were made of and where they had come from.
Other theories relied on rumors and legends that were told by alien races and by people who had voyaged far beyond the furthest outreaches of human civilization. In Reedsburg’s eyes, these were not the most dependable of sources, but the similarities between those stories made him nervous. It wasn’t often that so many people who were supposed to be crazy all came up with the same sort of story.
And the most alarming part of those stories was the name they all threw around.
Of course, there were many iterations to the name, but the most prevalent was the War Makers. Most of the archaeologists took to calling the shards they found artifacts of the War Makers. It made for good stories, but it didn’t help the mine at meeting the Coalition’s strict quotas.
And now this, Reedsburg thinks as he looks one more time at the obelisk that Greer is still cleaning off. The thing’s sharp squared off edges and the random polygonal and triangular planes and outcroppings just made it look all the more otherworldly.
“That’s what worries me,” Reedsburg whispers to himself as he reaches into his pocket and rubs his thumb along one of the alien fragments that he had chosen to keep for himself. Pulling it out, he studies it closely and he also studies his foggy reflection, if he could even call it that. Frowning, he recalls all the findings of his archeologists.
They all said the pieces were alien. They all said that they were sure there was more down here and that they didn’t want to be around when it was unearthed.
“There’s—there’s another one I think,” Greer sounds from down in the hole.
Shaking his head, Reedsburg lets out a long sigh before he looks down at the oaf of a man and asks, “What are you talking about now?”
“Huh?” Greer asks as he looks up from the glowing outcropping. A couple of beats pass before he says, “Oh, yeah, um, well there’s another one of these things over there.” Greer points off deeper into the hole.
Sure enough, Reedsburg can see another spot glowing further into the hole. The glow is coming up out of the freshly made gravel left behind from the blast. As he looks at it, Greer can’t help but notice yet another glowing patch further on still. Frowning, he notes that each glowing area appears to be evenly spaced, something that was anything but natural.
Swallowing, Reedsburg realizes that he was on the edge of something that was going to be either one of the greatest discoveries of the century, or it was going to be Pandora’s Box and it would unleash something terrible.
The theories had to be true. Or, at least a few of them had to be. There was too much happening that had been predicted for the theories to all be false.
“Step back, Greer,” Reedsburg warns the old coot.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Greer mumbles as he continues fiddling with the pillar.
Is it just me, or is that thing rising out of the ground? Reedsburg wonders as he eyes the glowing chunk of alien stone. The eerie green glow that it is giving off makes Reedsburg’s stomach ache and he momentarily wonders if the ache could be because of radiation.
He has to cut the thought short when the two pillars deeper in the hole break through the gravel ever so slowly. Sure enough, they were in fact rising.
“Get out of there, Greer!” Reedsburg shouts at the man. He is about to dive over the barricade that is set up around the lip of the crater, but he stops himself.
The pillars weren’t rising, the ground in the crater was falling.
And it was falling fast.
“No, this is my discovery,” Greer snaps as he reaches for the pillar one last time.
As if his luck had finally run out, Greer’s final touch seems to set off a chain of events that Reedsburg is immediately certain he would never be able to rehash properly when asked about them.
A bright flash illuminates the entire area of the massive kilometers-wide strip mine for a fraction of a fraction of a second. The light is a blinding white, but as it fades away, it becomes an iridescent green, much like the green stars in the neighboring systems.
Laying on the ground at least a dozen meters from the pillar is Greer’s body, which is smoking. The only identifying thing about the charred corpse is its uniform.
“Run!” Reedsburg shouts out loudly as he can as he spins on his heels.
Running away from the crater, Reedsburg realizes that he hadn’t heard his own shout and he begins repeating himself louder and louder. Every time, his ears fail to register the calls.
Flailing his hands like a madman, Reedsburg motions for everyone to run and, much to his relief, several of the miners do.
But most of the workforce bumble about aimlessly in a daze.
Racing toward one of thee nearest groups, Reedsburg shouts for them to move and, when they don’t, he begins shoving them toward the beaten gravel road that snaked its way around the massive mine all the way back to the surface world. While this escape wasn’t ideal, it was the only way out of the mine.
All Reedsburg knew at this moment was that he had to get out of here and he had to get as many other people as he could out as well.
The theories were right.
The War Makers were real, and they were waking up.
The next thing Reedsburg knew, he is running behind a surge of humanity. All his miners are racing toward the sole exit to the pit. It is at that moment that he realizes that there is a whole group of miners who are missing—the slaves. All the alien workers who the Coalition sent here to work until they died. Some of these aliens, Reedsburg was told, were royalty. Some were great leaders, inventors, artists, and so many other things back where they all came from. But, always keen to reduce every living being to the lowest point they could, the Coalition sent all these beings here to work as slaves.
Without another thought, Reedsburg skids to a stop, falling to the ground in the process. Spinning onto his front, he briefly remembers his time as a sprinter in the school he went to growing up. Summoning all the adrenaline he had, Reedsburg uses the loose gravel as a starting block as he sprints for all he is worth toward the caged off mineshafts where the slaves are held.
Running toward the caged shafts, Reedsburg can see all the alien beings clawing at the chain links that are holding them. They are yanking at the locked gates. He can see the fear in their eyes, their faces, and their actions all the way from over here.
They all knew that they would die here without a way out.
Reedsburg blinks and he finds himself at the first gate where he fumbles at the lock dumbly. He isn’t sure how he got here so quickly, but he chalks that up to a probable concussion, he had had one before, so he knew what it was like to black out for minutes at a time.
Still fumbling with the lock, Reedsburg realizes that he didn’t know the combination. He was the only one on the shift that was supposed to know it, but for some reason he couldn’t summon the memory. In all honesty, he couldn’t summon a lot of his memories right now.
As he fumbles with the lock, Reedsburg’s eyes rise to the aliens beyond the gate. They had retreated a few steps to allow him room to work, but the others are still tearing at the fence further away. It is in that moment that he realizes that everything he had been told about these aliens had to be a lie. They really were as human as he was.
Realizing that, he recalls all the things he had been told about the aliens from his miners who took the time to work with them. According to those men and women, these aliens all came from different planets the Coalition decided to war with and then enslave. These aliens came from both proud and humble races alike. Some were called Toaz, Dregg, and there were many others that Reedsburg couldn’t think of at the moment.
A few more precious seconds tick by when a thought hits Reedsburg. Reaching to his hip, he looses his pistol from his holster. The weapon had been given to him to keep the slaves in check, now he would use it to free them.
The slaves all see him pull out the gun and he can see an increased level of fear in their eyes. Part of Reedsburg feels dread at the thought of them fearing him more than whatever was going on in the crater, but he shoves those emotions down. He knew that he had never been cruel to them, it was the others who had been. He had always avoided the slaves because he despised the idea. But, he knew that in the aliens’ eyes, he was just another one of the oppressors.
Lining up his pistol to the padlock, Reedsburg lets off two rounds which pops the thing loose. The slaves do the rest of the job, and they swing the door wide.
When the first alien races out, Reedsburg can’t help but fear that they might turn on him, but they don’t. Instead, they race toward the escape route that everyone else is running up. Dozens of the now free slaves rush by and, before he had the chance to turn, one of the aliens stops in front of him.
The alien tries saying something, but Reedsburg motions that he can no longer hear. At that, the alien starts waving around and Reedsburg realizes that they are trying to convince him to save the others.
Nodding, Reedsburg does his best to assure the alien that that is exactly what he was intent on doing.
Turning, Reedsburg races over to the next caged off shaft and he gives it the same treatment as the first, but this time his newfound companion joins him.
This same thing happens three more times before it stops working.
And that’s when Reedsburg realizes that he had run out of ammo. What was worse was that he hadn’t packed any extra ammo today, he had never needed it.
Looking at the alien beside him, Reedsburg tries to communicate the predicament, but this seems to be a fruitless effort. Instead of pressing the issue, Reedsburg drops his weapon and he grabs a nearby chunk of metal which he uses to try and force the locked gate open.
If he was going to die, he would do so trying to save others.
Reedsburg knew that was the meaning of being a man—it was to put one’s life on the line for another. He had sworn an oath to himself and his God that he would do so, should the need arise.
Behind him, the black and green towers continue rumbling and the gravel that had buried them for so long continues receding. The glowing green continues lighting up the mine, more than making up for the lights which had been knocked out at some point.
This was his day. This was his hour.
There was no higher calling.
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