An Arrow for an Olive Branch: Sci-Fi Short Story, Pt. 9
Storm Clouds Gather over Washington, D.C.
An Arrow for an Olive Branch, Part Nine
"Laser number one, Ready––! The voice of the officer rang out above the cries of wounded soldiers. “Fire!" A red line pierced the cloud. The laser ripped electrons from water droplets and scattered them like sparks into tinder. Horizontal bolts tore through the overcast sky, split into two streaks, then four, all happening in multiple places at the same instant.
"Laser number two, Ready––Fire!" Guided by radar, a soldier raked a blue beam across the electrified field until it came to bear on the first robot to enter his screen.
Soldiers, commanders, the President and those with him, all who could see, rose to their feet.
All eyes were on the sky, and the sky was on fire. The men of Earth had chosen the arrow of war with the hope that the olive branch of peace would have a chance to grow.
One billion volts exploded into a horizontal streak that followed the plasma tunnel created by the second laser. Like Thor's hammer, tens of thousands of amps slammed into the Rhonk, releasing the heat of the surface of the sun, quintupled. Sparks flew, and black smoke roiled as metal and electronics melted. Then the unexpected happened.
The lightning passed through the first robot and sought for the most conductive material around, finding it in the metal frame of the nearest Rhonk. A single stroke of lightning became a continuous flow passing from one to the next, to the next as if it were a sentient being with places to go and robots to kill.
All of Ghar's Rhonks reached the ground, but not as the alien invader intended. Twisted metal frames pounded the open ground and smashed through the treasured monuments and buildings of the nation’s capital. The Washington Monument stood tall and proud to the end, a sacred obelisk surrounded by the prostrate carcasses of the enemy. The head of Abraham Lincoln rose above crumbled columns allowing the sixteenth President to once again proclaim victory amidst the devastation of war. Rhonk remains littered the length and breadth of the Reflecting Pool like shipwrecks in a shallow sea.
The lightning storm became so severe that it interrupted video reception where the President, the NSC members, and the four scientists had been watching with wildly swinging emotions. But the audio still worked, and their ears were hammered with silence while they waited for confirmation that the victory had truly been won.
A crescendoing roar, like the surf crashing on a distant shore swelled and rolled across the battlefield. Three infantry divisions comprised of tens of thousands of soldiers, cheered on behalf of their nation and the world as the final Rhonk fell from the lightning-streaked sky.
The President and his company erupted in an emotional outburst that joined with what they heard from the battlefield. A flicker on the video screen caught their attention. Ghar's image appeared. The President, already on his feet, faced the commander of the defeated Rhonks.
"Before me are the controls for a weapon that will shatter your planet. At what point in time that happens is mine to decide. I choose, now."
"If you use that weapon, Ghar, the people on your ark will have nowhere to go. You'll wander in space for years looking for a planet just like the Earth you destroyed because you were hell-bent on revenge. Send us the Rhonites. We will care for them, and you can go wherever the hell you want."
Toshu entered the room and stood next to Ghar.
"Toshu, I thought I would not see you again. It has been many days, and you have not communicated with me."
"Mhon Ghar, the people of Earth held me against my will.” She pointed at the people she saw on Ghar’s video screen. “They questioned me for hours and threatened to torture me if I didn’t tell them about our technology and weapons, but I escaped. I am here for you now. Please, tell me how I may serve you."
"One moment while I dispense with this planet and the tiresome creatures which inhabit it." Ghar turned his attention back to the President. "In a matter of minutes, Earth will begin to disintegrate. It is your punishment for defying me."
"Mhon Ghar." Toshu placed her hand tenderly on his composite arm. "Earth can still be a vital part of your plan. It is a place where the Rhonites can live without terraformation. If you destroy it, where will we go? My brother and I have developed a weapon that will leave the planet intact, but will eliminate the human vermin."
Murmuring spread across the room, but the President silenced it with a wave of his hand.
"It is all here on this disc, Mhon Ghar. Before you destroy Earth, won't you please take a look at what we are proposing? See how you could possess that entire planet as a base for your work without constantly dealing with its current inhabitants. You would be able to create a whole new line of Rhonks, even better than those you lost. And the Rhonites could live there and follow your plans for revitalizing the environment." Toshu held out her other hand. A metal disc the size of a dime lay in her palm. "Will there ever be an end to our search for a home, a place where we can have time for each other, Mhon Ghar, for you and me?"
Ghar ran his fingers through Toshu’s dark hair, lightly touched her face, her outstretched arm, her wrist, her fingers. He took the disc.
"Be sure to scan it for viruses before you install it, just like you always do, Mhon Ghar." Toshu wagered her entire investment in gaining Ghar's trust, years of catering to his every command and wish.
"You have been my faithful servant, my friend. Of all the Rhonites, I trust you and only you."
"Is it wise to risk so much? Even for love? Scan the disc, Mhon Ghar."
Seconds seemed like hours. "I––will––not." Ghar raised his hand to the slot in his chest and inserted the disc."
"Thank you for trusting me."
"Toshu, what is this?
"I told you to scan the disc."
"What have you done?"
"Are you feeling something, Ghar? Emotions? Fear? Rage? Regret? Surely not guilt.
The virus began to install itself. Ghar thrust his arm out and grasped Toshu by the throat with a vice-like hand just as the video feed to the President failed again. A unified gasp and cry escaped the lips of those who, in such a short time, had grown to respect this woman, even love her.
On the battlefield, beneath the fiery sky, the people of Earth had purchased the the precious commodity of freedom at a terrible price.
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© 2017 Chris Mills