As promised, here is the first look at my new book currently in the works. I hope you all enjoy.
Below The Battlements
The red warning light flashed in time with the blaring siren. People ran around the control room tapping gauges and turning various nobs and dials. A couple of men had giant binders and were thumbing through them rapidly. A ringing phone mounted on the far wall was left unanswered. The control room, which was running smoothly just minutes before, was now in complete chaos.
A heavy steel door, similar to those of a submarine opened and in walked the general. He was not one for panic. Panic turned the most rational people in to bumbling idiots. “Somebody turn that blasted alarm off! You, Sargent Walker,” he said pointing to the man nearest him, “Tell me what in the world is going on here!”
“SIR! THE REACTOR…” the alarm cut off mid-sentence. “Sorry Sir. The reactor is not functioning properly Sir.”
“Functioning properly? Meaning what exactly?”
“It’s over heating Sir, and we don’t know why.” The sweat was gathering around his temples as the general looked him in the eye. Intimidated as he was, he tried his best not to blink.
The general pushed his nose farther into Walkers face. “Don’t tell me that I came down here just to tell you to unplug the stupid thing?”
“No Sir!” he cleared his throat. “We already tried that.”
“Why can’t you shut it down?” The general looked at him like this was all his fault. Luckily another man stepped to his rescue.
“Because, once it is powered on, it’s designed to stay running until it reaches 40% running efficiency. At the moment we are operating around 20%.”
The general turned to see who had interrupted their conversation. He stared into the face of a small man with a pot belly, graying hair and a walrus mustache. “You’re not a military man. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”
“General,” the man proffered his hand, “I am Dr. Grant Simmons. I am attached to the Manhattan Project. I am overseeing all nuclear development. I was sent here to monitor your progress.”
“Oh right, right,” The general responded shaking his hand. “So tell me Simmons, what is our current situation?”
“The reactors core is sitting fifteen degrees higher than it should be during this stage of the startup.”
“Yes they already told me it’s overheating.” He brushed away Simmons comment. “What I need to know is what you’re going to do about it. You say it can’t be shut down, so what are my options here?” The general gave him the same predatory stare he had given Walker.
Either Simmons didn’t take notice or wasn’t intimidated. He gave a friendly smile and swiped a finger through his hair, scratching like a dog before answering. Finally satisfied he continued. “Right now we are just on alert. We will monitor any more temperature spikes and try to find where the problem lies. Otherwise, there is nothing to do until its run through the sequence.”
“And if the temperature spikes again?”
“I’m confident that we are fine. Every time we fire one of these things up they all have their glitches. As I said, the only thing to do now is…” He was suddenly cut off by the flashing red light and the wail of the siren. His face paled, “Excuse me General.” Then he ran/walked over to a control panel. He silenced the alarm and shook his head mumbling to himself.
“What is it Simmons?” The general asked. When Simmons didn’t respond right away a different man stepped forward dressed in the same blue jumpsuit that Simmons wore. This must be one of his men.
“Sir the temperature has spiked drastically. We need to look at shutting it down manually.”
This got Simmons attention. “No, no, no, NO! I told you it cannot be shut down once it has begun.”
“I think we should evacuate.
The general turned to him. I’m guessing you’re with him, yes?” he said pointing a thumb at Simmons. The man nodded. “Right. You realize Marines just don’t abandon their post at the first sign of trouble.” He stood up straighter emphasizing his position.
The young man put on a brave face. “I’m not in the military. I’m a scientist. One who would very much like to stay alive. If the core gets much hotter we risk a breach in the containment pod.”
“Simmons! What happens if it can’t be contained?”
“Any number of things could happen. None of them good of course.” He held up a hand to silence any more questions while he did some calculating on a sheet of paper. “I’m afraid young mister Kelly might be right. Alright, now see here,” he put the taper on top of a desk for them all to see. “The reactor should hold steady at 1100 degrees Fahrenheit under normal conditions. It is now rapidly approaching 1400 degrees. Once it reaches 1500 degrees we risk meltdown. There could be fire, explosions, radiation sickness. As I said…none of the outcomes are good. This has never happened to me so I do not know what we can expect. With that in mind, it may be a good idea to leave.”
“Now don’t you start too. That reactor is thirty floors below our feet sitting inside a vault with twelve-inch steel walls. This is not some flimsy house on the sand. The walls aren’t wood and plaster. This bunker is thirty floors of concrete and iron. Surely we are safe up here from any fires or radiation.”
Simmons shook his head. “If the reactor goes critical, and I’m not saying it will, but if it does, it has the potential to rip this mountain apart and cast us all into the sea. Everything you see,” he motioned around him, “will be consumed by a tremendous fireball that will vaporize it in an instant. We have done tests with weaponized versions of your reactor in the desserts of Nevada. Everything in a one mile radius was completely decimated in seconds. This is a power most men have never seen before. I’m telling you general, this is not something to take lightly.”
The general put his finger to his chin and took in the room around him. He could see the panic on all of the men’s faces. In his thirty plus years in the military, the last twenty five of those years as an officer, he had never abandoned his post. So the men were scared…a little fear is good for people. He quickly weighed the pros and cons: his career, his family, dishonorable discharge. None of it good. His thoughts were interrupted by shouts from behind him.
“Dr. Simmons! General! She is about to go! 1480 degrees and still climbing!” Sargent walker shouted from the instrumentation panel.
“How long till you can shut it down?” The general asked.
“Reactor at thirty one percent Sir.”
“General!” Simmons grabbed him by the sleeve, his eyes pleading.
The general took one last look at the terrified men. He could see his future crumble in front of him as he gave the order. “Sound the order. All Stations evac now! Sargent, get everyone out and then seal it.”
Simmons stepped in front of him and looked him straight in the eyes. “We are out of time. If we don’t leave right now and seal the doors, none of us will make it out alive.” To drive his point home one of the pressure gauges on the far wall exploded, shooting a spray of steam into the control room. A uniformed man ran to close the valve.
“There are over one hundred people below us. I am not about to walk away and leave them behind.”
Simmons looked down eyeing his shoes. “Emergency protocol has already sealed their fate for them. In the event that a reactor goes critical all doors are locked and sealed automatically. There is no way to help them now.”
“Protocol? Why wasn’t I informed of this protocol?”
Simmons paused and cleared his throat. “Well um, we didn’t think it would ever be necessary to implement it. It was put as a failsafe. A last resort scenario.”
The general walked over to a control board full of lights. It was a map of the facility and showed every main door. The lights on the panel registered whether a door was open or closed. Every light on the board blinked red signifying that it was closed. The ground beneath them rumbled and another gauge blew out. He grabbed the nearest man he could. “Can you override the system?”
“N-no Sir.” answered the private Dickson.
Simmons walked over to stand again by the general. “I’m sorry general. Everything below us is lost. We are too if we don’t leave.”
The general kicked over a chair. “Everybody out. Let’s move. Dickson,” he shouted, “get up top and radio HQ. Advise them of the situation and tell them I will report shortly.”
“Yes Sir!” Dickson ran for the door.
“Sargent! Take Simmons in to custody. See that he makes it back to HQ. He has some questions to answer. The rest of you…out.” He took one last look at the control panel imagining what those people were about to go through. He made the symbol of the cross and prayed their death would be quick and painless. The ground rumbled again as he reached the surface corridor. Giant metal doors that could withstand any blast stood like centuries to either side of him. He broke a pain of glass revealing a large slot made for a key. The general took the dog tags from around his neck. With them was a key that he fit into the lock. He quickly turned it half a turn to the left, then a full turn to the right. Immediately the giant doors began to slide close. He had just enough time to walk through them before the closed with a shudder.
Jeeps were waiting nearby. Most of the men had already left. The last jeep waited, his driver at the wheel. He was just about to his jeep when the ground lurched sending him to his knees. He turned around. A huge gray plume was rising from the cliff face. A sound like thunder pulsed through the air causing his heart to skip. The ground continued to shake and groan as he got into the jeep. “Move! Drive like you mean it!” he shouted to the driver. As they drove to safety the general watched the massive cloud rise into the air, already darkening the sky.
The general uttered a small prayer for the people he had left behind.
Thank you all for taking the time to share this with me. I would love to hear back from you on what you think so far in the comments or you can email me direct int he contacts page.