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GM

 

April 1st, 2018, 1.23AM 

 

Emerald City, Oregon, USA, Earth-Prime

 

The meteorite had snuck past every layer of warning the Earth had to offer, a flaming rock that by rights should have been seen coming a light-year away by the Lighthouse. It careened through the sky, directly for the peaceful, foggy Columbia River mouth and the two tiny cities crouched on the shores of the great gray sea. 

 

One of the Archetech staff had stepped outside for a smoke break, and a passing homeless man had pointed out the "new star" to him. Three minutes later and there Citizen was, high up in the sky with a giant ball of iron and alien metals racing for his head. 

 

It was around 150 meters across its smooth body, if it hit the cities at the speed it was going there wouldn't be any survivors for miles around.

 

The voice of Archetech West's ground crew hummed into his receptors. "We're ready when you are, Sharl! Say the word and we'll fire up the conduits for that power boost! Hit that thing with everything we got!"

 

"Just make sure to burn some of it off before you come back," another voice quickly added "just to be safe."

Edited by Ari

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There was no good place to put an explosion of four megatons. Oh the asteroid was going to explode before it actually made impact, but that didn't really matter when you considered an airburst of this magnitude over a city - even a vastly underpopulated, underbuilt metropolis like the Emeralds. Perhaps an asteroid impact here wouldn't be the holocaust it would be on a Lor-settled planet, but it would certainly be holocaust enough. Luckily, the Emeralds were Lor-settled cities - at least in part. The instant his atomic clock ticked, Citizen turned and hit the asteroid with his right shoulder, his body almost invisible inside the great honeycomb-shaped machine he wore like a gigantic suit of armor. Citizen pushed - and the suit pushed too. The internal gravity generators were larger and cruder than a Lor graviton generator would have been and certainly lacked their range, but the technological prowess that had let his native people cut their way through the stars and propel themselves at superluminal velocities were paying off. As sharp-eyed astronomers watched below, the city-killing asteroid's descent slowed, then veered as gravitic force powerful enough to withstand relativistic velocity changes shoved it out of the way without breaking it in two. Citizen pushed hard, acutely aware of the sound of whining complaints from his own internal sensors, but as he had so often, he put his faith in science. 

 

And it paid off. 

 

Down at Archetech West, he handed off the burnt-out remains of the gravity generator to its build team (who were excited to see their work tested to successful destruction) and said, "Okay, that was obviously aimed at us." He looked straight up at the sky and said, "Asteroids like that don't miss planetary defenses, especially not if they just happened to be aimed at a habitable area; not on a world this underpopulated. I'm gonna get in touch with the League."

 

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GM

 

Pseudo, as ever, was on Lighthouse duty. Over the station's internal cameras Sharl had the dubious pleasure of seeing the reserved Grue's stony red face slide from calm to anxious to horrified within the span of a few seconds. 

A few snapped orders and the station's bridge crew were working feverishly to scan the area the meteorite had appeared in. "Appeared" turned out to be a very significant part of that, as Pseudo explained grimly.

 

"The evidence is overwhelming Sri Tulnik," he said, the Grue's green eyes scanning the blue lines of data on his monitor "according to all reports and your imaging of the meteorite it should have been most of an asteroid orbiting Mars.The chrono-screen Dr. Tomorrow lent us after his latest foray into the Temporal Cold War shows it materializing within Earth's lower mesosphere. There are traces of extra-dimensional energy, of a sort my colleagues call magic, in the air above Archetech West but more than that I cannot say. When I know more I will inform you immediately."

 

"I commend you and your team for the swift and efficient resolution of this crisis. Several of the local corporations in your area deal in advanced technology, even a branch of ASTRO Labs. It could not hurt to see if some of them want to partner with Archetech. The League will divert what it can until proper defenses can be established. Pseudo out.

 

The crew were inspecting Citizen's exto-suit when he returned. Sarah Siks, a recent graduate of the local Parker Institute and electronics-engineering intern at Archetech West, waved to him over a pile of blackened metal. "Hey, Sharl? Did anyone tell you about the homeless people outside? Because we just got a campout. I think that stunt with the meteorite got you some more fans."

 

A quick look out the window was enough to confirm Sarah's words. The empty grass field out back and the front lawn were suddenly full of people, tents and piles of belongings. An older woman and a young man in stained, beaten clothes were arguing animatedly with the site's security chief on the steps up to the back door. Neither party looked like they were anywhere near giving in.

Edited by Ari

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"I'll go handle it," said Sharl reassuringly, eager to get back to the scientific problem at hand. He caught the group's attention outside the way he usually did - taking off into the air out of visual range, then settling down smoothly and quietly behind them. 

 

"Hello!" he said, projecting the kind of professional warmth he'd learned from Miss Americana. "I'm afraid they really can't let anyone in while we're running experiments, it's not safe." He smiled and extended his hand in the Terran fashion. "Hello, I'm Sharl Tulink. Welcome to Archetech West." 

 

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GM

 

Both parties turned to him, both Oluki and the two strangers looking profoundly relieved at the sight of Citizen. At once all three headed to meet him.

 

The security chief, a burly Samoan with a broad, honest face and short black hair coiled tight as his seething temper, crossed the distance first. 

 

"Sharl! Good to see you here, man. These people don't wanna come in, they just want to use our wi-fi and the park grounds. I keep tellin' 'em no, but-" he was abruptly elbowed aside by the young man in the dirty jacket and torn jeans, who looked up at Citizen with fiery eyes under a thick greasy curtain of straight black hair that fell past his shoulders. 

 

"Citizen!" he pointed a prophetic finger at the alien's robot "I'm John, the people over there follow me. We saw what you did to that meteorite and I figure we're safer here than anywhere else. This is my mom, Cheryl."

 

"This thug was denying us basic services," the graying woman with the broken nose and eyepatch smiled sweetly at Oluki, who turned a shade of red Sharl had never seen before and clenched his teeth so tight he didn't need superhuman hearing to hear them creak. "I certainly hope he's not saying what Archetech's stance is, we don't have anywhere else to go.

 

Oluki snarled "Yeah, except the Undercity! Hundreds of people can live down there, thousands! No weather, no traffic, it's got electricity and MarsTech has wi-fi hotspots every few feet! Even Nova's figured out how to get cell service working down there. Don't know when you people decided Upper Emerald wasn't good enough. Mayor Talbot kick you out? Is Up-Ee gonna make us deal with their garbage again?"

 

"No." John's tanned face was stone "We left because we saw what Citizen did and because there's these robots stalking us. Big ones, built like a tank and covered in spikes."

 

Oluki stared, speechless.

 

"Maximilian Mars helped us leave and get across the river without blocking the bridge, such a good boy," Cheryl added warmly "when we called him, he took our robot story seriously."

 

All three turned to Citizen. John and Cheryl expectantly, Oluki with total disbelief.

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Sharl blinked. 

 

Wait a minute. If that was really happening, why didn't he start by telling me that? He doesn't look like someone scared out of his mind! Of course, he couldn't rule out that there was something wrong with John's brain, as was so common in this world full of industrial pollution and primitive educational systems. Either way, this was the sort of thing that he needed to go deal with - if John was delusional or fraudulent, that was a problem, if giant robots were chasing him, that was a problem. 

 

"Okay," he said diplomatically, "here's what we'll do. Where was the last place you saw the robots?" 

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GM

 

"Where" was one of the deeper stretches of the Undercity across the river. A friendly man in flannel, jeans and a greying, thinning ponytail who called himself "Benjie" Carver had translated John's somewhat more poetical directions through a precise knowledge of the Emerald City Undercity. When Citizen had arrived at the entrance to the overbuilt original Old West harbor, Benjie happened to be around and more than happy to guide Sharl. Though as they walked down dirt city streets and wooden sidewalks by looming wooden buildings wholly alien to the gleaming metropolis above, many of them refurbished for tourist attractions and chic out-of-the-way eateries, they'd kept very carefully to the best-lit and cleanest blocks. There were darker roads down which Sharl briefly glimpsed scattered encampments and circles of sleeping bags, clustered around dim lamps or shrouded in blue luminescent cloth.

 

Benjie kept up a formidable level of history-flavored patter all the while, pointing out old crime scenes, areas that the city had rebuilt after a series of floods in 1960, even providing several recent anecdotes of giant robot sightings by the local homeless ppopulation.

 

"Here we are! Corner of First and Endernity streets. John's group was around here. When he talked to me about it, he showed me these," the guide pointed at a line of tread tracks, two of them, four feet across and churned deep into the ancient delta soil, "and got real snippy when I mentioned automated excavators are a thing, and the city has been planning with Marstech to work on a subway to Seattle." Benjie smiled awkwardly "Far as I know, anyway. Don't suppose you can see anything suspicious?"

 

The treads skirted the edges of the Undercity lights, arcing away into what was to Benjie Carver the utter darkness of a pile of rubble.

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