Our airship blasted out of the water with a sharp jolt, shedding water quickly and disorienting me for a few seconds. Outside was a veritable fireworks display of heavy artillery trading back and both between the mothership and the remaining Human Coalition forces. The constant blasts from both sides flickered in the night sky, acting as a strobe light illuminating the battlefield, slowly revealing the deadly dance the two sides were entangled in. I watched as our two sister airships broke free of the water and lined up in formation beside us.
The Coalition ships on the water were employing a massive barrage of concussive blasts on Atlantis with no apparent effect, the limit of Humanity’s current technological achievements rearing its ugly head in its final hours. Atlantis responded in kind with a mixture of laser- and kinetic-based weaponry which was dealing far heavier losses to its mortal opposition. A few of the Coalition ships managed to maintain their magnetic barriers which shielded against the light-based laser weapons, but couldn’t stop the slower, projectile-based shells from the turrets lining Atlantis’s underside.
As our airship arced further into the darkening sky, a large Coalition warship exploded sending a huge fireball skyward and giving us our first true glimpse of Atlantis. “Fifty miles wide” doesn’t sound large when looking at a map, but up close and personal, finally realizing this was a manufactured piece of technology, really brought it to a whole new level. The entire structure was circular, floating around a mile above the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters. A large spire jutted down from the bottom of the center, piercing the Gulf and making Atlantis look like a giant top.
This much we had already known about it. With Earth’s satellites down and most of the land-based Internet relays severed, it was nearly impossible to transmit data from one place to another, so there was no good imagery of Atlantis. As we rocketed up past its lower shell, we finally laid eyes on its upper surface.
All along the edges of the entire structure were giant towers spaced a mile apart, linked via glowing blue channels. These channels spun and spun further into the very core of the upper disk where they converged into one large caldera brimming with blue light.
As we circled the perimeter, the towers themselves began to light up one by one, the blue channels widening and brightening in response. The caldera went from a simmering blue to a brightness equal to the Sun in a span of seconds.
I shielded my eyes as a gusting wind gained momentum outside, working our small ship’s inertial dampeners to their full potential. Moments later, a massive wave of white light erupted from the caldera and into the sky, lighting the entire battlefield, dispersing clouds, and turning the dark night into day. A shockwave emanating from the blast hit our airship, killing our power and sending us hurtling wildly towards the surface of Atlantis.
We braced ourselves for the impact and I watched as the surface spiraled closer and closer until we smashed into the ground, the windows exploding into tiny pieces of shrapnel and the entire cockpit of the ship collapsing into itself. I blacked out for a few seconds, but regained consciousness and slowly climbed out of my seat.
I ran up to what was left of the cockpit and had to turn my head away in disgust. There was nothing and no one that could be salvaged up there. I saw movement from the back and saw Reg slowly lift out of his chair holding his head, his wild, white hair encrusted with red. I rushed over to check his wound. It was fortunately nothing more than a bad bump and I gave him a reassuring pat on the back. It was a boon he survived as I don’t think I’d be able to do this alone.
We grabbed our helmets and packs and kicked madly at the crumpled side door a few times before it fell open. As I walked outside, I saw the stream of light emanating from the caldera seeping into the upper atmosphere, beginning to encompass the entire globe. I stopped short and Reg ran into my back and started to complain before he looked up to the sky.
The reports were right. The Atlanteans had been making small-scale strikes on our major cities for months, wiping out the populace and erecting small-range biodomes of a breathable helium atmosphere for their extraterrestrial dinosaur physiology. But that was just the precursor for this, the real attack.
They’re planning to terraform the entirety of Earth and eradicate all of those who are indigenous to this planet.
I held my breath close. We only had one shot at this. I looked around and didn’t see our sister ships. I held onto the brief hope that maybe they weren’t affected by the EMP, or if they were, they landed close enough to their target zones to still be effective.
Surprisingly, the surface was organic. I expected it to be a metal of some sort, but it felt like walking on a worn mountain path. I looked around our surroundings and saw the large opening a hundred feet off. We quickly made our way over to the entrance, moderately aware that there was no noticeable resistance on the surface, in stark contrast to the underside of Atlantis.
I approached the door looking for a handle of some sort and, finding none, attempted to kick it in with little to show for it. Reg tapped me on the shoulder and directed my attention upward. Only when I looked up did I see the root of the problem: The advance forces that had taken our cities were all ground troops, built for mobility, and that typically wound up being various types of raptors or other dinosaurs that were roughly human-height. It hadn’t crossed my mind in a long while that there are plenty of other, larger species involved in this war. But it would sure explain why the only noticeable markings were a good fiften feet off the ground.
So I tried the only thing I could come up with on short notice. I grabbed my pack in both hands and swung it up into the air near the markings on the door, hoping beyond hope that it was an automated sensor of some sort. A small rumble shot through my feet and we were met with the slowly grinding gears of the door sliding open. I nearly forgot to catch my pack on the way back down. We slowly shuffled through the entrance.
It felt like we were in the middle of a South American jungle. The humidity weighed down on us like a heavy blanket and all the walls and floors were damp. The walls were lined with earth and the ceilings hung in great leafy filaments. There were no real hallways as the floor was covered with all manner of trees and shrubs and other flora. It made a lot of sense for them. I just hoped it would make sense for us.
I pulled a small tablet from my pack which contained the approximate area where the controls would be located. It was roughly a half mile from our current position, not bad all things considered. But whether it would be a straight shot or not we had to find out on our own.
I began to walk and was promptly dumped on my ass as the entire floor trembled beneath my feet. Did they simulate tectonics in here, too?! No, that was something from outside. Perhaps the Coalition had finally been able to accomplish something meaningful in the defense of Humanity. Or maybe one of the other teams had managed to find the surface resistance we didn’t. I got back to my feet, trying not to think of the latter, and made my way through some hanging vines with Reg right behind me.
We walked for nearly half an hour towards the destination, slowly making our way through the wilderness of their helium jungle. We had yet to run into any resistance or even seen another being on the ship. I supposed it was possible it was unmanned and controlled remotely, but it seemed foolhardy of them to entrust their entire trump card to fate.
We were making our way through a grassy clearing when we finally found our resistance. I heard something like a branch snap followed by a loud grunt and spun around in time to see a large, armored triceratops bearing down on us. His horns began to glow as I grabbed Reg and sprinted towards a large rock-like structure in the middle of the clearing, ducking behind it just as two big bolts of laser tore through the ground behind us.
Reg pulled his blaster out of his pack and circled around to the other side of the structure, yelling and taking shots to draw our enemy’s attention. I dropped my pack to the ground and grabbed some grenades from the strap around my chest and looked out at the clearing. Reg had succeeded in drawing him in the other direction and the triceratops now had his back to me.
I raced out from behind cover as Reg flung a smoke grenade into the clearing. I flipped the infrared visor down on my helmet as the smoke filled the clearing, disorienting the triceratops. “An old man once told me,” I yelled, sliding in front of the triceratops, “that Dodongo dislikes smoke!” I stuffed the grenades into his mouth and ripped the pins out. I scrambled back to my feet and dove towards Reg as the grenades exploded through the dinosaur’s skull, rendering him inert and slamming me into the ground.
I peeled myself up off the grass as Reg ran over, a wide grin plastered on my face. Reg ran over and reached his hand down to help pull me up. I grabbed it just as I saw a great, white horn emerge from his chest, dripping purplish blood. His grip on my hand loosened as he looked down at the horn protruding from his ribcage. He tried to take hold of it but the triceratops shook his head and flung Reg away, roaring loudly and bringing up its heel to stomp on my head.
Not given time to mourn, I hesitated a moment to recollect myself and was only barely able to spin out from under the triceratops’s heel. Reg’s blaster had fallen to the ground and I managed to grab it and unload multiple shots into the triceratops’s exposed belly, ripping gaping holes open and spilling his entrails onto the ground.
I stared at the corpse, breathing heavily for awhile before I dropped the blaster and ran over to Reg. He was breathing shallowly when I got there. I went to speak and put his hand up and shook his head, smiling. “Since when was I an old man?” he sputtered. He handed me his pack and nodded his head and smiled at me before he lost consciousness forever. I struggled to swallow and breathe for a few minutes as I sat on the ground, alone.
I collected myself and got back up to see I had more company. All the commotion had attracted quite the crew, but they were being more cautious now that we had dispatched a couple of them. I counted one more triceratops, two stegosauruses, a tyrannosaur and three raptors, all heavily armed.
I didn’t stand a chance.
But as luck would have it, no one stood much of anything. A faraway explosion shook the ground lightly and the entire ship began to tilt. It was slow at first and I took advantage of the confusion to duck into the clearing’s neighboring tangle of forest. The tilting then grew much faster, sloping down from 5 to 75 degrees within the span of about ten seconds. I grabbed the trunk of a tree and wrapped myself around it as I watched the dinosaurs slide through the clearing as if they’d been slicked up with oil.
This could only mean one thing. One of the other teams had succeeded in blowing the first control center and disabling part of Atlantis’s internal anti-gravity mechanics.
The tilting finally stopped around 80 degrees and began to correct itself. We had expected there to be some redundancy in their systems, though, and knew that no less than two control centers being taken offline would do the job. My job, now. The dinosaurs in the clearing were long gone, and I was able to clamber my way uphill as the tilting slowly corrected itself.
Reg’s body was gone, as were the blaster I had dropped and my own pack. I couldn’t find the table in Reg’s pack, so I was flying blind, now. But I remembered the general direction I had to head and we were nearly there already. I pulled myself slowly up through the clearing, faster and faster as the angle flattened out.
I burst through the other end of the clearing, which ended in a steep drop. I tumbled down the slope and skidded to a halt just outside of another, smaller clearing. This one, however, was filled with blinking lights and consoles and what looked to be actual technology.
It was also filled with dinosaurs.
There was no time to play it soft and loose, now, so I search for the only weapon I had left. I set Reg’s pack on the ground and pulled out a small cluster of cube-like objects. I began to set it up and flip some switches when I heard a loud grunting noise behind me and a laser blast buried itself in the ground next to me. I stopped still but managed to sneak the cube cluster into my palm as I turned around slowly, raising my hands.
I was surrounded by a group of four dinosaurs, all with weapons trained on me, and all heavily armed. “Clever girls,” I said as I turned to face them. Their faces did something akin to souring at my words and the stegosaurus who appeared to be their leader bellowed some words and their weapons began to power up.
I took a breath and activated the cube cluster, praying to every God I could conjure up. The cluster emitted a low hum and a light blue bubble quickly expanded from its center. The dinosaurs all began gasping and choking, their weapons falling from their hands. The stegosaurus wildly slammed its tail into two of the other dinosaurs and smashed his head into a nearby tree trunk while flailing and attempting to escape the suffocation. The others just fell to the ground, unable to breathe any further.
While the Coalition had a hard time of stopping the Atlantean incursion, they had managed to procure certain pieces of their technology when they were successful. One of these was the biodome, the small-scale terraforming device that was employed to cover a ten- or fiften-mile radius on the surface. What I held in my palm was a single-sized serving of the biodome, tuned to create a human-breathable oxygen atmosphere with a radius of 100 feet and a lifespan of about 30 minutes on a good day.
A trump card, indeed, but this was its first real test in a non-oxygen atmosphere. I think I’d consider this a success.
I grabbed on of the dead dinosaur’s laser blasters and headed into the clearing. I saw a mass of tangled wires and electronics. Looking around at all the various consoles and connections, I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. This was vastly different from the technology the Atlanteans employed on Earth.
I tried to imagine what the other team must have done in order to disable their control center. And that’s when I realized: It’s the same as we’ve always done. I leveled the blaster at all the blinking consoles and organic cables and let loose with my finger trigger.
The ground below me rocked back and forth, knocking me to the ground as the electronics exploded in cascading fury. The interior lighting of Atlantis went dark and I felt that sick feeling in my stomach. The kind you get when you’ve reached the pinnacle of a roller coaster and are about to drop back down to Earth.
Atlantis was sinking from the sky.