General Kwan stepped into the control room with a mixture of anticipation and bewilderment.
Pak scampered in behind him.
The control room was stark and white. Sanitary, like a hospital ward.
The antithesis of everything he had seen architecturally since his arrival on the red planet.
The room was a simple, white cube. Brightly lit by unsourced lighting, and about the size of a large living room. In the centre of the floor was a transparent pedestal standing about four feet tall.
Large, flat screens were mounted on all four walls.
Kwan and Pak walked a few paces towards the pedestal, and suddenly the room came alive.
The wall screens lit up with images of starmaps and the planets of the solar system.
The pedestal began to glow purple, and a holographic image of a planet appeared above it. Mars.
Kwan walked slowly around the hologram, staring at it intently. “Magnificent,” he whispered.
He passed his hands through the glowing red image, and it flickered and wobbled briefly, as though his touch had physically affected it.
Pak was making his way around the room, analyzing the starmaps on the walls.
On one wall, an animated scenario showed a small orange blip traveling through what Pak assumed was the Milky Way galaxy.
He walked to the screen on the next wall.
This one showed the Solar System. The planets were slowly rotating, all of them clearly recognizable. The massive Jupiter, Saturn with its rings, and Mars.
All of a sudden the orange blip, larger this time, zoomed across the screen.
It was unmistakably a meteor. It headed directly across the map towards Mars.
Pak’s eyes widened as he watched the meteor slam into the planet. He looked across at the next screen, just in time to see an even closer view. This time it was a fully rendered image of Mars, as the meteor smashed into the surface.
The screens were displaying an animated story that showed the path of a meteor heading inexorably to Mars.
Kwan noticed Pak flinch as the image of Mars erupted into a ball of flame.
“Don’t worry Colonel,” he said. “These are simply graphic images of something that occurred many thousands of years ago. Exhilarating and frightening, yes… but quite harmless.”
Pak stopped looking at the screens, and joined the General in the centre of the room.
Kwan rubbed his hands over the hologram again.
“Marvelous technology, wouldn’t you agree, Colonel?” He didn’t wait for a response. “It is truly awe inspiring, the lengths a civilization will go to, to save itself from extinction. They created this wondrous machine to escape their inevitable doom, and in a bizarre twist of fate, they were wiped out and the machine lives on.”
Kwan crouched to the floor so that his eyes were level with the centre of the pedestal.
On one side was a small, indented panel, almost seamless.
Kwan pushed the panel, and it popped out slowly like a DVD player cartridge.
Inside, was an array of tiny circuit boards with wires, LED lights, and other digital technology.
Kwan reached into his thermal suit pocket and removed a little red circuit board.
“And now, we find ourselves in the same position,” Kwan pulled a similar looking circuit board out of the pedestal and replaced it with the one from his pocket.
He looked up at Pak, who was watching and listening to his General, transfixed.
“The only difference is our extinction won’t come from a meteor. No, Colonel… we face a far more insidious threat—the threat of Western civilization. The United States and her allies have claimed Earth for their own, choosing to ignore the cultures and beliefs of other nations in favor of their democracy.” Kwan pushed the panel back in with a click, and stood up.
“So we, the People’s Liberation Army, will claim Mars for our own.” He raised his arms majestically, and looked around the room. “Here, we won’t be subdued or told what we can or cannot do. Mars will belong to the people.”
Pak appeared a little mesmerized and confused.
Kwan saw this, and passed his hand back through the hologram of Mars. His hand continued downwards until it touched a barely visible metal plate on top of the pedestal.
The hologram flickered out.
An instant later, it was replaced by another holographic image—the Trojan Device.
Kwan pulled his hand back up. “Ahh… there it is. The machine itself, the mechanism that will bring about our victory.” He was looking at a small, black sphere that hovered and flickered cartoon-like above the pedestal.
Pak was beginning to feel as though he was stuck in some kind of cult religious sermon he couldn’t escape from. He smiled politely at Kwan.
The General continued. “Once designed to transport a race of beings from Mars to Earth, it will now transport an army from Earth to Mars—my army!”
He held the old circuit board up in front of Pak, then pointed to the pedestal.
“The new circuit board I have placed in this control panel will now enable the device to work in reverse. And soon, my good Colonel, our comrades will be dining with us in the Grand Hall as we celebrate our victory.”
He looked back at the slowly spinning hologram of the Trojan Device.
Carefully, he removed the glove of his right hand and held his bare palm over the image. A short pause, then he lowered his hand into the hologram.
Pak watched with amazement as the hologram took on a new look.
It shone brightly. Pulsed.
Little sparkles of energy flickered all over it. Then it grew larger, expanding outwards in all directions from the pedestal. It completely engulfed the two men.
They were now standing inside the holographic image.
Pak was horrified. He started to back up a few paces.
“Stay where you are, Colonel,” Kwan ordered.
Pak complied hesitantly.
Inside the image of the black sphere, Kwan reached his hands up to a virtual bank of controls. He keyed a couple of buttons that had strange symbols marked on them. The very act of touching the holographic images was causing something physical to happen.
Everything lit up brightly.
The room buzzed and crackled. Lights flashed.
Then there was an ionospheric hiss, followed by a sharp pop, and the image disappeared.
Kwan and Pak stood for a second in front of the pedestal. The hologram was no longer there.
The wall screens were blank.
Kwan looked around him.
“There! It is done.” He said triumphantly.
Many miles away, at the other end of the tunnel, four large disk plates began to slowly rotate and grind on their hinges. Inside the hangar, the massive gear wheels on the walls started to rotate faster.
It had begun.