Of Swords and Dragons
An accidental mishap at a research facility breathes life into a group of dragon-like monsters, capable of terrorizing entire cities and triggering an all-out arms race to defeat the giant abominations.
Chapter 1: Pandora’s Box
There weren’t always dragons in the Valley, at least not for a very long time, but by some foolish test of science, humans performed tests on a plethora of animals, exposing them to near-fatal doses of nuclear radiation in the hopes of controlling evolution and harnessing the ability of a species to adapt to their environment.
They say it was the year 2030 when one such experiment went awry, turning several normal Komodo dragons from the Galapagos Islands into abominable beasts, capable of destroying entire cities. Escaping from their research facility in Silicon Valley, they mutated into dragon-like creatures, with a hundred-foot wingspan and the ability to spew fire out of their mouths.
Unbeknownst to a college student named Lance studying Z energy engineering halfway across the world in London, he continued on his studies in creating enhanced mechanical weapons or ‘mech weps’ that would modernize the way war was fought in their generation.
Tinkering with a glowing robotic sword that had the ability to fire pulses of lasers capable of penetrating bulletproof armour, he also made a shield powered by modernized fuel cells full of Z energy, strong enough to protect its wielder from incoming machinegun fire.
Complete with boots that could allow the user to jump in midair, Lance’s research and development were generously funded by western powers, who were all too eager to get ahold of the newest tech being invented by the genius youngster.
Swinging his sword, he pointed it at a wooden target and released a shot which obliterated the board into splinters and charred pieces of material.
“Bloody amazing! Quite the tree-chopper you have there, Lance. Mind if I give it a go?”
Handing over the sword, Lance warned his benefactor to be careful as the weapon was still in its research stage and could potentially misfire. “Just hold the handle, point at the target and press the energy stone with your thumb.”
In a flash, a glow of energy emerged from the stone and pulsated toward the tip of the sword before firing a pulse in a burst of glamourous light.
“Haha, brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! We look forward to seeing this model completed, Lance. We’re all depending on you and your team to give us the edge on the war with the east.”
Handing back the sword to its creator, Lance secured the prototype into its lock-box before signing out of the lab which was located twenty stories below ground in a secret bunker designed to survive even a nuclear holocaust. Riding the elevator back to the surface and squinting his eyes as the rays of light began to shine through the glass doors, he finally arrived at ground level and exited the elevator to join the masses of people walking through London’s financial district.
Hailing a cab to take him to his million-dollar apartment overlooking the mega-city, he watched the hustle and bustle of people going about their work, safely far away from the conflict areas. The front lines to the east and in the Pacific seemed distant and many in the public simply wanted the war to be over with. Countless lives and military resources were spent in what seemed like an endless war; resources that could have helped others in more desperate need.
Arriving at the building, he greeted the security worker who buzzed him in and greeted him back: “Welcome back, Mister Walker.”
Entering the building, he headed for the elevators and stopped the doors from closing as a young woman rushed to get in.
Gasping for breath, the lady nodded her thanks to Lance for holding the door. “Thanks a bunch, I can’t let them see I’m back home. Nasty people they are, the Paparazzi.” Taking off her high-heels and putting on some more comfortable slip-ons, she thanked Lance one more time before exiting on her level, still several stories below his apartment.
Pressing his finger for the door to scan his prints, it electronically beeped once then opened inward beckoning the inventor to enter back into his home. Tiredly throwing his knapsack onto the couch, he crashed into the sofa and used his voice command to turn on the television.
“Allana, please turn on the television.”
A pleasing, generically sounding voice responded immediately, “Of course, turning on the television now. Would you like anything else, Mister Walker?”
Wearing goggles that functioned as a remote control, he flipped through the channels with the flick of his eyes, before stopping at a story covering the rise of the giant dragons in California. Slowly taking off the goggles, his hands were limp with fear, allowing the remote control to fall lifelessly from his grasp.
“My Lord…” Speechless at what he was witnessing, Lance hastily took out his laptop and researched where the monstrous reptiles came from.
Giant dragons originating from a lab in Silicon Valley are flying west through Texas, laying waste to Dallas and Houston. About ten to twelve beasts were counted heading for the Atlantic.
Lance couldn’t believe his eyes as he saw video after video of eyewitness accounts of the destruction and mayhem the mutated creatures caused across the United States. He had seen murals of flying dragons at the excavation sites where they first discovered the Z energy stones. It seemed that the ancient peoples used the power of the stones to reign supreme over a world of gigantic monsters that had predominated in that age.
Pressing the answer call button on his advanced hearing aids, he was surprised to hear the head of the Department of Defense from the United States on the other side of the line.
“Hello Mister Walker, I’m sorry to call you outside your office hours, but I assume you know about the crisis happening in the US at the moment?”
Lance bobbed his head, knowing exactly what the senior official wanted of him. “Yes Sir, I’m watching it on the news and I’m terribly sorry for your people.”
After a few tense moments of silence where there was some undiscernible discussion on the official’s side, they decided to tell Lance the gravity of the situation.
“Young man, we have always shown interest in your…inventions, as shown by our continued financial support for your lab. Given the crisis we have at hand, we have a need to develop a
top-of-the-line technology to destroy these mutated dragons. Your Z energy weapons and armour has great promise and maybe just the tools to handle the job.”
“Absolutely Sir, but how much time are we talking about? It might take a week to develop just a prototype and then there is all the testing and quality assurance…”
“Lance, the dragons will be at New York City within two days. I’m afraid that after a week, there won’t be much of America left to save.”
“Okay, I’ll immediately send the blueprints for the Z swords and energy shields, but you say the creatures mutated after being exposed to nuclear radiation? Perhaps that might be the key to weakening them enough to take them out with traditional firepower.”
The Minister of Defense from the UK spoke up, after hearing what everyone had to say. “America was there for Britain when she needed help in the Second World War. It is high time that Britain returns the favour. Once the beasts cross the Atlantic, there will be no stopping them from ravaging Britain as well.”
As the communications link shutoff, Lance immediately gathered what he thought he might need, stuffed it all into a backpack and hustled down to the elevators to get back to his lab as soon as possible. Hailing a taxi at the entrance to his apartment building, he made use of the time by scanning through articles on radiation exposure, health implications and remediation from the toxic energy.
Paying the driver, he hastened to his lab and on arrival, was met by most of his lab assistants, along with some superior officials to oversee the research.
“Okay, ladies and gentlemen, we have a twenty-four-hour window and we need to develop an effective weapon to disable and or destroy these flying dragons.”
One lab technician suggested something interesting. “Lance, if the dragons were mutated by radiation wavelengths, perhaps if we use soundwaves that match those wavelengths, we can immobilize them long enough to take them out, perhaps by explosives?”
Another assistant touted a better solution. “No, bombs won’t work on creatures that big, but since reptiles are coldblooded, we could use liquid nitrogen to freeze them, to the point where we can go close up and do some proper damage.”
The idea was well received and soon a consensus was made to follow through with the plan.
“Alright everyone, we all know what to do, if you have any questions, come to me.”
As prototype after prototype was tested and failed, the tenuous work was taking its toll on Lance and the other lab technicians. After working nearly twenty hours straight, Lance found himself nodding off, even with his left hand clutching a dark-roast coffee.
“Sir! Sir! We have a successful prototype!” A lab technician shook Lance awake and showed him the large weapon. “We call it the Supersonic Freezer! The fans along the barrel create a deafening soundwave while the air burst chamber shoots a bundle of liquid nitrogen which will freeze a portion of the dragon’s body on contact.”
Running his hand along the gun's barrels as he marvelled at its construction, Lance gave full credit to his team and went to try out the new weapon himself. In fact, the gun was so large it required two assistants to carry it to the firing chamber, and after donning earplugs and goggles, they test-fired the Supersonic Freezer.
The deafening soundwave shook the walls of the chamber, while the baseball-sized package of liquid nitrogen shot out, freezing a target nearly fifty yards away.
“I want schematics and blueprints sent immediately to the American and Western defence departments and in the meantime, we’ll stockpile a few ourselves in case these monsters mount an attack on our turf.” As Lance took a break, he joined a fellow technician watching the news broadcast covering the advance of the dragons.
“Call me strange Lance, but does it seem to you that the beasts are headed Northeast, it’s like they’re being driven towards the Canadian Maritime provinces.”
“Well, they just ravished Chicago and parts of Kentucky so you might be right.” Looking at his watch, Lance realized his team had been on overdrive for the past day and would need to rest to avoid running on fumes and burning out. “Alright team, let’s go home for the day, rest, get something to eat and come back in eight hours and we’ll continue our research.”
As the last of his team left for a much-needed break, Lance couldn’t help but notice that his colleague was right; the mutated dragons seemed to be all heading northeast as if driven by some hidden urge to travel in that direction. The map shown on the television showed the devastated cities lying in ruins after the dragons had passed through, and several beasts were on the verge of decimating New York City. Video clips of mass evacuations and panic buying fanned the flame of desperation and fear in people’s hearts, spreading like a wildfire globally as people realized these monsters could not be stopped by conventional means.
Looking affectionately at one of the pictures he had on his desk, it showed his then fiancé and himself standing next to a mural depicting ancient humans using the energy rocks and thwarting the destruction of their world by the beasts. They had started as classmates, before working together as a team, travelling across the globe seeking out the stones and any written inscriptions detailing their existence and or use.
Fidgeting with his wedding ring, a single solitary tear rolled down his cheek, as he recalled the moment when the doctor told him his wife and baby boy both failed to survive the pregnancy complications that had occurred.
Sitting on his chair, he laid back and turned down the volume on his hearing aids, drowning out the sounds of the underground offices adjacent to him with a sea of silence. No comforting words from his wife, nor the pleasant cooing of his son; just plain, empty, suffocating silence.
Waking up to one of his colleagues shaking him, Lance groggily asked what the issue was. The response was gut-wrenching and made him speechless at what had just happened. “Our weapons weren’t built or transported in time and the dragons have started flying over the Atlantic making a b-line for London it seems.”
Confused as to how their weapons ended up being ineffective, his colleague explained as best he could. “The Americans were in the process of mass-producing the ‘mech weps’, including the Supersonic Freezer, but they simply didn’t have enough of the guns to halt the advance. I’m afraid they’ll be showing up on British soil within a few dozen hours.”
Thanking the assistant, Lance went over to his computer and tried looking through the images taken of the murals depicting the discovery and use of the Z energy stones in ancient times. One particular image got him thinking; showing a fighting scene where it seemed both beasts and humans were racing to get to the stones in the centre. Then, it hit him and he finally understood why the dragons were heading to London. They were after the Z energy stones they had collected in his laboratory!