The challenge was:
A capital city of a lost civilization
1500 words or less
Due: March 1
This is how it turned out. Only a first draft. It is definitely needing work (not much of the technothriller present) and will be longer than a flash fiction. Or this will be a part of a bigger piece.
Keep An Open Mind
The day was getting longer. The heads of the families, Jonger for El Cupat and Guppa for Naotegum, each had their agendas set but yet to be complete. Jonger settled his glider at the northern end of the Gholan Peninsula. In the downtime of this skirmish, he planned to firm land rights.
Guppa, on the other hand, waited at the edge of the frontier. His escort, Binder and three of Binder’s most trusted soldiers, would set up perimeter defenses and keep communications open. The Naotegum were firm on keeping El Cupat from expansion. Spies on both sides knew of the plans for growth. The one side knew the plan and the other side knew they knew the plan. If there was more, it was secret.
Binder served the Naotegum faithfully, even through some sketchy order in the past. Inventiveness led him to complete immoral commands without hitting the questionable part. The creativity and persistence led to promotions and more interesting missions such as this.
The information about the Gholan peninsula was slightly above vague. Treasure could be a reason for interest by El Cupat. It could be for reasons of strategy, though the peninsula was not the most advantageous area unclaimed out here. Frankly, they were isolated. The enemy was here, they were here, both sides knew the other was here. The enemy would proceed despite the lack of security.
Binder and his mates had their base set up, more of a bivouac really. He’d planned to have it hidden as well as possible. No need for the enemy to have every advantage. Guppa would want as much secrecy as possible at this point.
An old man staggered up the path did not understand this need for secrecy. Despite his stagger, the codger made a straight shot for Binder.
“Guys, what is this?” Binder asked, expecting a prank to follow.
“Not a prank.” “If it is, we didn’t set it up.”
The old man was at the site now.
“You better find it before they do,” the elder said.
“Find what?” Binder was still unpacking and hooking up equipment.
“Hehe. The edge is closer than you think. Open the crest or there is certain doom. Kahokia.”
Binder could smell the alcohol on the old man’s breath, but the words were very coherent. No slurring.
“Here, let me get you some water. You look like you’re getting sunstroke.”
Binder turned to get his canteen when the old man grabbed one of the laptops from the table. Binder turned to see him scurry off, much faster than he appeared capable of doing.
“Hey!” He chased after the not so harmless man.
“Mike, where you going?” Turret called on the comm.
“He took LB7. Unless you have those files on another drive, we can’t finish setting full comm. Stay here in case it was just a diversion.” A diversion it was not.
Binder chased him for over a mile through rough forest terrain. Every time the soldier expected the old man was out of breath, the chase would speed up. Their path was far from straight and Binder’s instincts knew the journey was moving away from base camp, no matter which was the chase moved.
“Binder to base, I’m still in pursuit. Any action there? Over.”
“Nothing yet boss.
Then he could not see the old man. He did find the laptop at the mouth of what would be a cave if the depression weren’t so shallow. He caught a glimmer of something on the wall of rock. He put out a hand in about the spot where the glimmer had been. Instead of solid rock, he felt what could be warm jelly. He expected a shock or burn but pulling his hand back did nothing else. There was no smell on his fingers.
He put his hand out again, exploring the boundary of the soft spot. It was big enough for a person to fill and pushing allowed him to put his hand through to – what? Nothing happened to his hand other than pushing through that other area. He was able to push all the way through to a small antechamber.
The new room was dimly lit. Beyond was a hallway appearing to lead on for yards and his flashlight revealed a slight curve to the west. He traced his hand in the shallow carvings along the wall. Binder could only wonder if they were ceremonial or ornamental. His flashlight did not illuminate any deeper meaning.
At the end of the hallway, he found another, larger room. A circular hole in the ceiling let in sunlight but that was not as much as would have been earlier. The beam indicated the day was getting later. This new chamber looked more like a depot leading to multiple areas than a cave in the rock. A small light marked the top of the central of three more paths. Binder took the center path.
At this point, Binder wasn’t sure what he was looking to find. The old man was either long gone or waited in ambush. Binder knew the approximate location of this secret area in relation to the peninsula and his base camp. Nothing he had reviewed indicated this hidden series of rooms.
The center path let out into yet another room. This one had too many features to take in with a glance or two. A multitude of LED lights covered most of the walls, in addition to several monitors that were off. Binder’s eyes were adjusted to the dim lighting so far. When the room brightened, assumedly from his entrance, he had to blink a few times to be able to see again. The monitors came to life. It was the voice that startled him.
“Welcome, Michael Binder. What is your command?”
He had no idea what to do as he did not know what the room was designed to do. Was the voice from an intercom or from the computer itself? The monitors now displayed the El Cupat faction, both on the peninsula and at what he assumed to be the main headquarters; the Naotegum, on the peninsula and what he knew to be their war room; several minor families’ main cities; and a location he had never seen before.
“What is this?”
“You have been proxied to command the assets and resources of the Rheas Pa Ekes nation.” Yet another monitor revealed a warehouse full of armaments, vehicles designed for war, and mechs or robots.
“What is the goal of the Rheas Pa Ekes nation?”
“To eliminate all opposition on this world.”