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“Okay looks like we got everything set up. Let's get working with the Mantra-Tech systems check Falcon One,” said Chino Tokuma over the radio. Her fingers gently wrapped onto the neck of a narrow microphone which stuck out of a platinum metallic desk. She imagined the people above ground working inside their offices framed by large paned glass windows. A job she once held herself. Now she was a mile below a shopping center, well-dressed customers make the roulette through carousel doors. Their clicking feet brought to silence as it extended to the depths of this place. Chino taps her fingers across a gray plastic board of keys. Each press leaves a distinctly different click. She glances up at a massive screen which covers the entire wall of the dark room.

A male voice replies over the radio with just a hint of static. “Rodger that, we have, light. The ion engine appears to be operating nominally. Ready and waiting for instructions, over.”

There she was, an expert at her single task of masking out the power levels. A careful balance of percentages. While Chino works she cannot help but think of the people walking through the city slums surrounded by litter. It is dull, a monochrome brown with torn posters lining the walls of events long expired.  At the time those affairs seemed like something, but now they are meaningless echos of the past.  A population of several million oblivious to the project, no the process, happening in the shadows of this man-made cavern.

“Begin with the core check Falcon One.” replied the young woman who sat next to Chino. She tugs on the collar of her uniform loosening its ever-growing choke on her neck. The levels on her monitor jumping from green to orange to red. Her fingers type hastily pulling up information on the pull from the municipal electric grid.

Billboards line every street. They shine a dull haze of strobe light while cars bustle through heavy traffic. As Chino flipped a switch they dim marginally and buzz back to life. A group of school children pauses looking up in awe as the power flashes dead. Their teacher rushes the kids along through the crosswalk. A lump in Chino's throat forms as she sees the levels blackout. “Damn it not now!” she thinks to herself. “Come on don’t die on me now.” Flipping switches, she keeps her eyes on the electricity levels gradually lowering back to a stable condition.

“Rodger, let me see here, Core 1, stable. Core 2, stable. Ah, Core 3, is stable. Core 4, stable.” says the technician followed by a heavy crackle of interference over the radio.

“Get that line clear.” said her commanding officer. His voice boomed with authority making the room vibrate. She smalls into herself, continuing her task. The soft hand of her coworker closes over her fingers.

Chino turns her head to see welcoming eyes. “It will be all right. We got this.” She whispers.

A "click" crosses the line as the technician says “Rodger, I apologize my cable was loose.” there is a slight pause before he continues “Core 6, stable. It appears that everything is working as it should be. I am good on my end. Broadcasting levels now.” A broken streetlight burns back to life blinking yellow as a group of pedestrians ambles through a crosswalk. The clap of thunder roars as rain fell from gray skies.

“Everything looks fine on our end Falcon one, let’s begin the Particle Engine Check.” A few blue orbs dot the unnatural darkness like fireflies lighting a warm summer’s night. Chino could not help but admire the colors as she viewed the spectacle through the screens muddled image. The camera adjusted its lens focusing on a few wisps as they ran in front of the optics.

“Rodger, ah, let me see here.” grunts the technician. The snap of a plastic board cracks over the radio. Inside the control room, Chino looked around at her co-workers dressed in white, gray suits managing many switchboards. Twisting nobs and looking at large holographic displays, the lab assistants work feverishly. “Engines one and two are ok. Ahhhh…. Let me see engine three, is, ok.”

Connected by a meager tether, the technician drifts inside the darkness traveling along the satellite's channel.  The white nylon tricot of his spacesuit painted a dull blue in the glow of the whisps.  His only point of refrence wading in the dark void is the satellite, his sense of direction changing as he climbs the rungs of metal and snowy plastic. While he floats around the machine, the excellence in his trade became unmistakable to Chino.

After ensuring the energy levels are stable Chino begins her final check on her end. She draws open a few more screens taking a deep breath. “Headquarters clears you to engage the Mantra Drive Falcon One,” she says over the radio. With a gentle lighting of a thruster on his back, the technician glides himself to the edge of the satellite. His feet hang over the panels. After gathering his footing he reaches for another tether from his side and connects it to a rung on the ladder. Grabbing hold of a round switch, he turns the white cylinder till the surrounding satellite rods light up one by one with a red glow.

Chino jumps as a man stands up and points at his screen. “Object spotted, Commander, it’s east of the gate,” he says. The girl next to Chino pulls up the image on the large wall panel. Chino’s heart flutters for a moment. This should not be happening she thinks to herself. The computer system at once undertakes a lock onto the object. “Falcon 1, there is an object in the distance on your three, do you have visual?”

He turns and looks to see a twinkle in the distance. His suit displays a lock onto the object. “Rodger, I copy a visual. It’s approaching very rapidly.”

“Falcon one do you have a read on the object?” the commander says. The twinkle becomes a flash, and the flash consumes everything in the darkness. A loud haunting crash blows the speakers on the other end of the radio. Pieces of plastic and metal rain onto the floor as several members of the crew scream. In the light, the satellite turns to nothing. In an instant, the man loses his suit in the bright ray. His flesh flying away, and his bone turning to dust. “Falcon 1 do you copy.” The commander yells his voice quivering with concern. “Falcon one do you copy. We lost signal Falcon 1. What’s happening out there Falcon 1.”

~

“Today we remember the twenty year anniversary of the explosion that wiped out Blue Ash city. The disaster killed over two point three million people reducing everything in its aftermath to rubble in an instant. The smoke from the explosion blocked out the sun for three days. It was the single most destructive disaster in modern history. A new city has formed in its wake. New Ash City; the world's technological marvel. We remember…” in a flash, the news anchor disappears into the black.

“Yeah yeah we all heard it before.” says the voice of a young girl with a view looking out over a suburban township.
Synopsis: Apricot, a student reporter, finds herself stuck in a harrowing nightmare with no escape when she stumbles upon a cult of creatures who seek to resurrect the black god who once ruled the world.  Unable to speak out for fear of being called insane, Apricot must face the horrors of an unseen world which seeks to take over her own; alone.

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