Moths to a Flame
Four days into the desert, the origin of the creature was discovered. Located in a shallow ravine, a rip in time was slowly stitching itself shut again. The smell of an ancient era tainted the air around the agents.
“The Veil’s thin here, like a quilt with its stuffing sticking out,” said Erasmus as they studied the site. The group came to a consensus. They had to discover exactly where this rip in time came from.
Erasmus determined that the rip was a residual effect from a much larger event fifty kilometers out. Mattix sniffed as he peeked over his shoulder at his tether. The Trinity site was the source of all of this aggravation.
He slapped the doctor on the shoulder with an open palm, “Open it up. I want to see what’s on the other side.”
Previous experience, and previous teammates who were no longer among them, unnerved the group. The doctor and Model-3417 held onto Mattix’s belt as he peeked through. On the other hand, Murdoch stayed far away, and crawled to the top of the ravine to catch a smoke and scout the surrounding area.
Atop the ridge was an open-topped U.S. Army jeep with three dead soldiers. Closer examination yielded a horrifying realization: these corpses gave birth to more creatures, days ago. His cigarette fell from his lips. On the other side of the ravine three smaller versions of the same creature, small as in man-sized, were charging toward the ravine.
“Moths to the flame,” he said, taking an assault rifle off of the soldier and crouching behind the rear fender. “Guys we have company!”
He took a shot, but the creatures were running much too fast. By the time Erasmus and Model-3417 turned around, the creatures had leapt through the air and were in their faces, nipping at them with gore-encrusted teeth.
Mattix reached through the rift and pulled his two teammates through. Model-3417 was quick to operate on the rift, sealing it as quickly and efficiently as it could, as Mattix relayed to Murdoch where and when to travel to, so they could regroup.
The coordinates barely reached Murdoch’s tether before the rift closed and cut one of the creatures in half. The other two sniffed the air, and charged up the ravine. They leapt into the air to pounce, and surprise the ex-private eye only to find he’d thrown a grenade at their feet.
Mindlessly determined, the creatures inched forward leaving entrails behind them as they sought their prey. Murdoch cursed them before firing up his autochron. It was time to make sure these little horrors were never born.
Twelve hours until the rift opens.
The agents were preparing an ambush in the ravine when they realized they had time to see what anomaly caused this rift to begin with. They traveled to the Trinity site, and from a high-up ridge watched the military and scientists scurrying around like ants as they hung the world’s first nuclear weapon, a weapon from which they knew not what to expect, from a high metal tower.
Everything looked normal to them. No supernatural entities. No strange readings or time distortions. From the look of it, the bomb was going to go off as scheduled.
A small compartment opened in Model-3417’s forearm. Three tiny microdrones, each no larger than a dragon fly, emerged and sync’ed with its CPU. Tonight, as they ambushed the creature, it would know exactly what would happen at the Trinity site.
The agents camped at the ravine for the next several hours. Doctor Erasmus performed a ritual, carving a large pentagram where the creature was to step through, and lit a dozen beeswax candles while performing an ancient ritual to trap the beast.
“I’m not sure I trust this magic crap,” said Murdoch as he and Mattix watched the ritual taking place. It wasn’t so much that they didn’t believe in it. They lived it and witnessed it on countless occasions. But as men of action they needed something more grounded in reality to make them feel like the situation was under control.
As the winds kicked up, and rain began to fall, they jimmied a lock on a shed in a nearby ranch. Inside was enough chain for them to create a net to make sure the creature didn’t get away, despite the doctor’s insistence that his ritual would freeze the creature in place.
The agents sheltered themselves below a rock outcropping. The rain beat down on them. The wind ripped at them. Each flash of lightning blinded them.
Readings from Model-3417’s drones spiked. In the Trinity site it saw a large pulsating sphere of light with crackling purple lightning envelop the tower. Within seconds the Gadget had vanished, along with the shack mounted above it, containing the guard who was babysitting the nuke overnight.
When it came to, to inform her teammates, they were celebrating. The creature had stopped mid scream, frozen in time with a chain mesh over it. Mattix was getting too much enjoyment out of dismembering the beast with a chainsaw.
“It would be so much easier to simply banish it,” said the doctor.
“Ha!” said Mattix. “But then we wouldn’t know if it can fit in Tupperware, now would we?”
The team wavered for a moment. The universe was correcting itself after they stopped it. Here, four days before it ever reached Tularosa, they had slain it. Less than a day from now this beast was supposed to kill three U.S. Army soldiers in a jeep patrolling for axis spies assumed to have stolen the Gadget from the Trinity site. The world around them, however brief, became unreal.
“Whoever stole the nuke is in the Holocene,” announced Model-3417. The nuke had been stolen through time travel, and this rift was a byproduct. It made sense they could step through and avoid damaging the Veil anymore than it already was.
Somewhere in prehistory they would find the culprits responsible.