United Terran Government Academy #9

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Chapter 14

Hector follows the road to the very edge of the tree line. He pauses to take in the destruction of the town standing not more than thirty minutes passed. Loud popping sounds can be heard from that direction and Hector takes a long breath, thinking about an excerpt in one of the books he had to read in his history class regarding ancient weaponry: 'In ancient times, guns used a very crude mechanism that used the chemical reaction of combustion to project bullets at their targets. This reaction produced a loud popping noise.'

'There's a battle happening over there,' Hector thinks. He starts walking along the tree line, his attention fully occupied by the destruction of the town. He continues walking along until he trips on a large root of a tree. He hits the ground, his hands and knees taking the brunt of the impact. "Ah jeez," he cries. He gets up and wipes himself off. He decides to start paying attention to the task at hand, when more popping sounds can be heard. He ignores it and continues walking along the tree line. He searches specifically for a thick group of older trees with large branches overhead, are roughly close enough to form a wind barrier, and are aligned in a circle. Many specifications for the campsite, but they must find one with those specifics, because the night is going to be rough without any basic protective gear against the cold. The trees in that formation would be able to keep enough wind away from the fire, and would almost act like insulation, like making a barrier of rocks around a campfire. He's optimistic about his idea, but he cringes when he thinks about his sleeveless shirt and how it's not going to be much help, with or without the specific formation of trees he searches for. He sighs when his ten minutes are up, and decides to head back to his group's rendezvous point when he begins to hear the sound of rumbling. He looks around but can't find the direction of the source of the sound. It slowly gets louder, and eventually he finds the direction— directly above. He looks up and finds a massive ball of fire falling in his direction. His eyes widen and he immediately sprints in the direction his body is facing. He desperately runs, as the rumbling noise seems to be getting louder at a faster rate. He runs even faster, his feet digging into the ground, his arms instinctually pushing the air in front of him one by one. The rumbling noise turns into a loud growl, and then suddenly the ball of fire hits the ground, creating a shock wave that pushes Hector to the ground. Hector shakes his head while he gets to his knees in a hunched over position. He grasps the ground and his breathing becomes heavy. He promptly looks backward, and sees a fiery mess. He covers his eyes with his left forearm and gets to his feet. The fire burns brightly for a moment, and then in an instant a bright light flashes from the center of the fiery ball, extinguishing all the fire in the area. The remainder is a sphere as tall as Hector, sitting inside an impact crater. The trees in its vicinity leaning away from the center of the blast. Hector starts slowly toward the blast, eventually breaking into a light jog. He slides down the crater and approaches the sphere. He slowly places his right palm on its surface and recoils from the heat still emanating from its surface. He shakes his hand furiously to cool it off. He notices now that the sphere is made out of the same synthetic material the elevating platform was made of—the same material the glass tunnels ground was made of, and the same material Mr. Teech's podium was made of. His eyebrows furl in confusion, and he scratches his head. 'What is this thing? It looks like the UTG manufactured it, but that wouldn't make any sense. Mr. Teech specifically said they wouldn't be getting any supply drops for this year's Survival Camp.' Hector ponders the conundrum.

When the sphere cools off, Hector slowly places his left palm, this time, and taps the sphere with his PEC. The surface of the sphere suddenly illuminates with a soft white glow. Across its surface centered on the point where Hector tapped his PEC, a message appears in bold black text: 'Hector Steadfast. Notify Angelus the Swift of the Free City of Pater about this capsule.' The message blinks steadily, and then vanishes. The soft white glow dissipating, the capsule becomes dormant. Hector scratches his head, then spontaneously decides to go to Pater. He moves quickly and it takes him no time to break through the tree line by following the road he was previously on. He thinks about how his friends would be looking for him while he goes on this self-imposed mission, but he quickly pushes it to the back of his mind. Instead he focuses on the road ahead—the ruined city at the end of the road he runs on. Popping sounds fill the air, and he can’t help but shudder at the sound of each of the pops. Along the way, an explosion occurs, and he can see a bright light from coming from the epicenter. He hears the sudden booming sound, and he stops in his tracks. He moves swiftly off the road, and lays on his stomach. He puts his head in the ground, and covers his ears, half-expecting more explosions. At this time he thinks back to another excerpt from that same book about ancient weaponry: ‘The atomic bomb is the penultimate weapon of the ancients, and is the precursor to our understanding of the universe today. The great scientist, Alberto Einsteino, opened the door to the atomic age, and the HIPER could never have come to power without his contribution to science.’ He visualizes a memory he has of the detonation of an atomic bomb. He compare his memory of the video, to the initial explosion today, and to the explosion he just witnessed. In comparing the first two, he realizes that the initial explosion today, may have been an atomic bomb, but the blast radius would have completely taken out the forest he was just in. He concludes that the initial explosion today may have been a miniaturized version of the ancients’ atomic bomb. In comparing the first explosion with this one he just witnessed, he finds that this explosion could not have been an atomic bomb at all, and may have been something else entirely, since there seemed to be no apparent damage.

He pokes his head up, and finds that there is a serene sound floating through the air from the destroyed town ahead—the lack of popping sounds. He looks curiously, hands still covering his ears, but decides to forge ahead, taking comfort in the lack of popping sounds. It takes him some time, he eventually makes his away to the first destroyed building of the town.

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