I experimented with a bit of a different format in my next series, following Phantom. The Depths of Darkness series was my first foray into multiple points of view, changes in POV tense, and omniscient narration from an unreliable narrator. Some of it worked. Some of it didn't. One of the things that didn't (I won't spoil it for those who haven't read) was the prologue. For most who read it didn't make sense, didn't pull them in, basically didn't add to the story or the final payoff twist at the end. So out it went.
But here it is for your reading pleasure (or displeasure):
Location: Unknown Asteroid on the outskirts of Earth Alliance colonized space.
“Something’s not right, sir,” Dr. Calver said.
Captain Phin, tinkering with the final adjustments to the machine he stood behind, looked over his shoulder. “We’re about to start, Calver. Not the best time.”
“Sir, there’s an unusual spike in—”
“Is it a major concern?”
Dr. Calver raised the Holopad readouts so that Captain Phin could see them. “I—” He tapped the keys a couple times. Then sighed. “I don’t know.”
Captain Phin stood and clapped his hands together. “Then I deem it a non-issue. Stick with the science stuff, doctor, and let me and the Earth Alliance handle the hard decisions. Get Mathers over here.”
Dr. Calver mumbled a disgruntled “Okay.” then dragged the machine back a few more feet from the testing location, just to be absolutely sure he’d be safely out of range. The machine was a blocky, heavy thing, nearly as tall and wide as he was, covered in blinking lights and fluctuating graphs that Dr. Calver was forced to keep a sharp eye on. Any change in those readings and, well…it would spell bad news for all of them.
Mathers came over from the far side of the rocky space they had cleared away for the test. “Just checked anchor points, sir. Core is stabilized on each quadrant of the asteroid. This rock should hold together when we fire it up.”
“Which we shouldn’t do,” Dr. Calver muttered under his breath.
Mathers turned to him in confusion. “Is there a problem with the machine, Calver?”
Captain Phin pounded Dr. Calver on the back of his bulky space suit. Dr. Calver took a miniscule step away, while still allowing Captain Phin to rest his hand on his shoulder. Just because the suits were made to withstand the harsh environments of deep space didn’t mean he wanted to risk Captain Phin puncturing a hole in it.
“Calver thinks what we’re doing is unsafe,” Captain Phin said. “He seems to believe that creating the biggest advancement in the history of the human race since the discovery of fire should come without risk, despite our orders.”
The machine beeped a warning. Dr. Calver checked it. “Unknown power signature growing stronger—”
“Fire it up, Mathers,” Captain Phin ordered.
Mathers hesitated. “Sir, if there’s an issue with the readings, maybe we should listen. You know this experiment has a very high potential for instability.”
Captain Phin’s hand dropped from Mathers’ shoulder. “Mathers, you will fire up the portal device or I will have you both put in confinement back on the ship until we return to Earth Alliance headquarters. I will not fail to complete orders because of a few hiccups. Is that clear?”
Mathers stepped around the machine next to Dr. Calver, muttering a quiet “Sorry,” over their private coms. He flicked the on switch. The sound of something monumental, a world shifting, began. The machine’s hum grew in volume.
The bright light that had suddenly appeared in the area they had sanctioned off grew brighter, causing their helmet screens to darken to compensate. The rocks and dust around them began to pick up in a newly created wind, even in the vacuum of space.
“We need to get farther back, sir!” Mathers called.
Captain Phin nodded. “Pack it up, boys!”
The sound from the machine elevated in pitch as Mathers and Dr. Calver dragged it away from the growing light hovering in the space in front of them. There was an earsplitting groan of rock shifting, sounding as if it had torn all the way through the asteroid. Suddenly a new sound was added: the sound of something, not unlike fabric, tearing.
Mathers checked the readings as he ducked behind the machine to escape the rocks and debris being pushed from the space.
“Asteroid stable, but it won’t hold much longer, sir!” Mathers yelled.
“A little longer!” Captain Phin said.
“The energy spike!” Dr. Calver said.
And then Captain Phin waved his hand. “That’s enough! Cut it off!”
Dr. Calver and Mathers’ hands thumped and fumbled against one another as they both frantically tried to quiet the now-shaking machine. They hit the off switch at the same time. The machine went quiet and silence ensued; the kind of silence that followed after something had gone very, very wrong.
The three men picked up their heads and looked in the direction of where the light had been. A shallow depression had been carved away, as if a miniature meteor had struck when they all hadn’t been looking.
Dr. Calver squinted. There were odd shapes at the bottom of the depression. If he didn’t know any better he’d say they almost looked like bodies...
Captain Phin approached the spot.
“Sir, I think we should stay away,” Mathers said, voicing Dr. Calver’s thoughts.
As he drew closer to the edge, Captain Phin pulled out his pistol from the holster attached to the side of his suit. It was a Falken F-Series model, standard issue for all EA officers, and used propulsed plasma rounds to propel the bullets, even in the vacuum of space.
He reached the shallow hole and looked down.
“What the—?” Captain Phin started.
A sharp crackle of static sounded over the team’s radio, like a pistol going off. Captain Phin’s head snapped back. He hung in time, as though suspended in the final moments of his life, before his suit-laden body crumpled to the ground. Dark figures, obscured by dust and debris, rose from the shadows of the depression.
Mathers couldn’t help it: he screamed. “What did you—NO! NO!” He was still screaming as four simultaneous shots tore into his body, cutting him off.
Dr. Calver huddled behind the machine, sobbing as quietly as he could. He flicked on the personal recording device on his suit as the figures’ shadows approached and covered him.
“We never—” The sobbing made it hard to finish his sentences. The shadows were so dark to his mind, growing darker every second. “We never should have done this. I love you, Jen, honey, I love you so much—”
Dr. Calver looked up and found himself surrounded. His eyes widened when he realized what he was looking at. “But…you’re…you’re with—”
Four more shots. Dr. Calver’s body sank to the ground.
The lead figure hadn’t even looked at the man he was shooting; he was too busy checking his new surroundings.
“They’re here,” he said in a voice as sharp as broken glass. “Destroy the machine. Find them.”